Basehor family’s life revolves around fair
For Tessie Brandt and her family, the Wyandotte County Fair is still all about agriculture -- which means preparations for the next fair begin almost as soon as one fair ends.
Tessie's daughters, Nikki, 16, Kaitlyn, 10, and Kylie, 8, participate in almost every event 4-H offers at the fair, which leaves little time off.
"They've had stuff to do every day for two weeks," said Tessie, who lives in Basehor with her daughters and husband, Lee. "My husband and I take them where they need to go and give a helping hand when they need it."
This year, the Wyandotte County Fair began July 25 and will continue until Saturday, Aug. 2.
Nikki has been in 4-H for nine years. She and her sisters participate in arts and crafts, foods, horticulture, floriculture, cat show, horse show and livestock shows.
"And we usually do science, but we didn't have any time this year," Nikki said.
Nikki's favorite part is showing steers, as is Kylie's, but Kaitlyn's favorite is showing horses.
A lot of their time and attention are spent on their steers. This year, Nikki is showing her white steer, Mr. Freeze, and her sisters are showing a red steer, Big Red, and a black steer, Dr. Pepper.
"They've had cattle all their lives, really," Tessie said. "They work with "They work with theirs all year long. They halter break it, teach it to lead, stop and start, stay there. It's a time-consuming project."
Nikki said they enter other competitions to get the steers used to their surroundings, but the bulk of the training takes place in their front yard.
"When you can get them to stay there, you know they're ready for the fair," Nikki said.
The girls showed their steers Wednesday morning. The judges look at how well the girls present their steers, such as grooming, how well the girls can control their steers and how the steers respond. The Brandt girls outperformed the competition, with Kaitlyn winning grand champion in junior steer showmanship, Kylie winning reserve champion in junior steer showmanship, and Nikki winning grand champion in senior steer showmanship and overall.
All of their hard work will pay off in another way as well--when the steers are sold at the open auction Friday, Aug. 1 at the fairgrounds, 98th Street and State Avenue.
"I say the hardest part is selling them at the end, because they get very attached," Tessie said.
During the auction, Joe Bichelmeyer, a butcher from Bichelmeyer Meats, sets the floor price, which is that day's market price per pound, for each cow or steer. People in the audience then bid on the cattle. They pay the price they bid, which is called the premium, in addition to the floor price, Tessie said, but they have the option of allowing Bichelmeyer Meats to take the meat or taking it for themselves.
The 4-H members often put the money they make at the auction toward special savings funds, such as college, which is what the Brandt girls are doing.
The Brandt girls have done well for themselves in other events this year, as well. Kylie won grand champion--the top prize--for her cat cage and reserve champion--second place--in the cat show for her cat, Bambam.
In the arts and crafts category, Nikki won grand champion for a bench she made, Kaitlyn won reserve champion for her mirror, and Kylie won reserve champion for a stepstool she made.
Tessie said participating in 4-H and the fair had helped her girls learn responsibility and leadership. But the Brandts are worried about the future of agriculture and the family farmer, with farm life and farmland disappearing because of the driving force for more money.
"It's like everything--they call it progress," Tessie said, "but to me, they're taking the backbone of this country and saying, well, let's just get rid of it." "Personally, I'd rather have my kids in something like this that builds responsibility and leadership."
Nikki said 4-H is more than just hard work and she plans to continue participating.
"I just like being a part of it," she said.