Show Prep takes Organization, Communication

There is surely nothing better to teach young people valuable skills and responsibilities than spending time in the barn. And for many, the weeklong “junior national” shows become family vacations and reunions with friends and show families across the country. Countless hours, nights and weekends have been spent walking, washing, brushing and feeding your pig projects as you #PreptoWin at The Exposition or one of the summer type shows. However, for busy show moms, there is some extra preparation that goes into attending these longer shows. 

Jennifer Shike, Sadorus, Illinois, said her family has been showing at The Exposition for six or seven years, with Olivia, 16; Hunter, 14; and Harper, 8. She and her husband, Dan, grew up in the livestock industry and work as a team to make sure everything and everyone is ready to be gone from home for a week, something that has become more challenging in aspects as the kids have gotten older and more involved in sports and other activities. 

“Dan has got his eye on the barn, but we have many other responsibilities, too. I spend time trying to stay organized about our schedules, so we don’t drop any balls while we are gone and know what we are going to have to make up. And as the kids get older, they do a lot of that stuff, but there is still some overseeing I do as a mom. Keeping a healthy balance is hard,” Shike said. 

The Show Mom Staples 

Besides all the typical necessities that you need for your pigs, Shike prepares the family to be gone and show for multiple days. That includes making sure there are plenty of clean clothes – jeans that are show appropriate and fit and clean show shirts. She also makes sure to have boots, belts, hair accessories and laundry supplies, just in case.  

One of the items she never leaves home without is her “little orange tub.” This tote is filled with the medical necessities that are bound to be needed by her family or a family friend during the week: band aids, allergy medicine, wound spray and other remedies that come in handy for whatever ails someone around the barn.   

Between the shows spread with purebreds and crossbreds and barrows and gilts showing different days, there is plenty of downtime. Shike has found if she brings things to entertain her kids around their pens or tent, they are less likely to wander, and it helps her to know where they are. With older kids, toys are not needed like they once were, but cards and fun games are always popular with her kids and their friends. 

“I like to have some activities that my kids and their friends can do at our tent, so they stay a little closer. We’re there to show pigs first, so making sure they are close by to see to their responsibilities is key,”, she said.  

Finally, keeping her family fed is important. She plans easy meals for her family that don’t require excessive food preparation. However, she does make sure they have the groceries purchased and packed and makes a list of supplies she can purchase when she gets to the destination.  

Preparing for the Week 

With long days and hot weather, it can be challenging to keep your exhibitors well-rested and hydrated. However, it can be done if you prepare in advance. 

“Sometimes you have to play the ‘I’m the boss card’ from a parenting perspective. It’s not always popular, but rest is important,” she said. “Communicate your expectations with your kids before ever leaving home, and you will all have a better week.” 

Shike said it is challenging for her family with kids that range in age from 8 to 16; however, prior to the days they show, they do expect them to get some sleep. Sacrifices are part of the scenario for the good of the family.  

Another aspect of preparation is getting ready for educational and life skills contests like public speaking, skillathon and livestock judging. With younger kids, it is easier to set aside time to discuss the parts of the pig or different breed characteristics. As the young people get older and more involved, they must make time to decide how dedicated they want to be. 

“I think there is a fine line between wearing your kids out in preparing for these things because there is so much they need to do in the barn, but there is nothing worse than showing up at a contest and not feeling prepared. There are a lot of good resources online to study for the skillathon,” Shike said. 

It takes a lot of effort to get kids shuffled between activities, prepared for contests, shows, fed and clothed. The Shikes love the life they have chosen. Her trio looks forward to the competition, spending a week with friends from across the country and getting a break from home. 

“This is our family vacation, so we want to make it fun, too.”  

Having fun, working hard, communicating expectations and being organized. Those are just the few ways this show family works to #PreptoWin in the show ring and in life. Here’s a short checklist of things you won’t want to forget as you head out to The Exposition: 

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