Thursday, December 08, 2022

'Kind of like big dogs'

Staff Writer | November 11, 2022 1:25 AM

MOSES LAKE — Kelli Nelson is no stranger to showing animals.

“I’ve been showing since I was about two years old,” the 17-year-old said as she leaned on a bleacher inside the Ardell Pavillion at the Grant County Fairgrounds.

A native of Pendelton, Oregon, Nelson holds the lead of an eight-month-old buff-colored Charolais-cross steer she calls Sid. He’s been washed and groomed and his fur has been fluffed up, and he looks as good as a bovine will ever look in or out of a showing ring.

“I usually show sheep and goats. This year is new with the whole steers and cattle,” she said.

She scratches Sid behind one ear, and the steer drools slightly.

“He did pretty well this morning, and he’s getting used to it,” Nelson said. “They’re kind of like big dogs.”

Nelson is one of nearly 300 young people from across the northwest who were in Moses Lake last weekend for the Western Showcase Jackpot, organized by the Washington Simmental Association for the last 11 years. Simmental cattle are an all-purpose breed from Switzerland, according to Jennifer Harwood, one of the show’s organizers, but the show welcomes owners aged 21 and younger of all breeds of cattle to come and show them off.

Saturday’s show involved steers of all kinds, while Sunday’s involved heifers and showmanship, Harwood said, though there is also a round dedicated solely to Simmental cattle.

“The shows are not really about cows. They’re about kids,” said Harwood, a native of Auburn who raises a small herd of fewer than 20 animals. “This is a high-dollar sport. And this is a sport for these kids. They dedicate themselves to this. And the amount of money that families spend buying, raising, feeding, traveling, I mean, with diesel fuel what it is to come from states away.”

Floyd Lewis and his wife Rae Ann leaned on a gate enclosing the show pen. As Grant County Cattle Rancher of the Year, and a long-time rancher of Charolais cattle near Moses Lake, Lewis volunteers at showing events like this across the region. Saturday found him opening and closing the gate so contestants and their cattle could leave the pen after their round of showing was done.

“These young people who are now exhibiting we hope are the next set of producers that are growing the future of the industry,” he said. “By going to a show like this, it allows them to see not only what they’re doing, but what their competitors are doing.”

The goal is to keep cattle production going, even as regulations and costs make it more difficult to keep raising cattle.

“I’m extremely passionate about the industry,” he said. “So when my friend asked me to be free help, I was here at six o’clock this morning.”

Ruth Uznay, one of the founders of the show who said she’s held just about every office in the Simmental Association, said the kids participating in this year’s Western Showcase Jackpot learn responsibility and life skills and make new friends in the process.

“All these kids have got friends forever. And they’re always meeting new people. So there’s just so much to gain from it,” she said.

Harwood said she grew up raising and showing cattle, so helping arrange this show is a way to pay back what she received by paying forward so other people can find something akin to what she found as a young person breeding, raising and showing cattle.

“We have generations of people who are coming back with kids and grandkids and that kind of thing,” she said. “It really is a family of people.”

Plus, in addition to all that kids learn — responsibility, self-discipline, how to present themselves — Harwood said there are prizes for the winners paid for by the entrance fees.

“The winner will walk away with a belt buckle, a cash prize and all the glory,” she said. “Bragging rights and a little hardware.”

Charles H. Featherstone can be reached at



Kaylee Eiter, 12, of Hayden, Idaho, leads her steer out of the show ring during the Western Showcase Jackpot show last Saturday at the Grant County Fairgrounds. Eider, who has been showing since she was eight, said she has always like to take care of cattle. “When I was a kid, I liked to take care of my brother’s steers. I just like how they acted,” she said.



Western Showcase Jackpot judges Skyler and Taylor Jarman, both of Ellensburg, stand and in the ring and examine contestants’ steers during the competition on Saturday. The two filled in for the original judge, who got stuck in Dallas on the way to Moses Lake, according to Moses Lake rancher and show volunteer Floyd Lewis.



Moses Lake rancher Floyd Lewis and his wife Rae Ann stand at the exit gate of the show ring at the Western Showcase Jackpot on Saturday. Grant County Cattlerancher of the Year, Lewis said he called to volunteer and help with the show at the very last minute.



Kaylee Eider, 12, of Hayden, Idaho, leads her steer out of the show ring during the Western Showcase Jackpot show at the Grant County Fairgrounds last Saturday.



Livestock judges Skyler Jarman (left) and his wife Taylor (right) look over steers during the Western Jackpot Showcase at the Grant County Fairgrounds on Saturday. While they are looking for the qualities that make for good cuts of meat, Taylor said showmanship has even crept into the market portion of the show.



A steer waits to his turn to take the stage at the Western Showcase Jackpot in Moses Lake last weekend.

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