FARR WEST — Her moments of glory leading her well-bred and well-trained Holstein cows into the show arena will happen Friday and Saturday at the 83rd annual Weber County Dairy Days competition at the Weber County Fairgrounds.
But 15-year-old Lexie Papageorge started early in the week with the trimming and bathing that her cows and heifers — young cows that have never borne a calf — will need to put their best hooves forward.
“I do it now, so when it’s on show day, it’s not so hard and doesn’t take as long,” Lexie said. “We like to keep them clean.”
Lexie’s 1,300-pound, 6-year-old heifer, Nicole, dragged her back to the pen after her grooming and bath.
“She was hungry,” Lexie said, chuckling after explaining that Nicole, also known as Needy, is her best show heifer because she’s trained so well.
“She doesn’t do that in the show. She’s had enough to eat and enough to drink at the show.”
Lexie is just one of 10 family members, including cousins, who are part of Pappy’s Farms, a 300-animal family dairy operation, and will be showing cattle this weekend as they have for seven decades.
The show for many years was known as Plain City Dairy Days, but then it moved to the Weber County Fairgrounds and changed its name some time after that.
“We participated since the early ’40s,” said Harry Papageorge, Lexie’s grandfather. “I think we missed one in all those years.”
And the competition at the statewide event is fierce.
Last year, the Papageorge family’s soon-to-be most famous heifer ever didn’t even win a championship there.
“It was the only show in the whole world that she won first in her class but didn’t win a championship afterward,” said Ted Papageorge, Lexie’s father. “The caliber of competition in Utah is very high.”
The 18-month-old heifer, named Pappy’s Golden Rave, later sold for $25,000 to a British Columbia, Canada, operation and went on to become known as the best heifer in the world.
“She won championships at all the major international shows,” Ted Papageorge said. The heifer was featured in international dairy breeding magazines and was on some covers.
She also won the people’s choice heifer award at the World Dairy Expo in Madison, Wis.
“You hope it’s not a once-in-a-lifetime thing,” Ted Papageorge said. “That’s what you strive for in what you are doing. I guess that was the ultimate goal.”
Events at the fairgrounds, 1000 N. 1200 West in Ogden, begin at 9 a.m. both Friday and Saturday, with open classes held Friday and junior classes for the 4-H and FFA set for Saturday.
Ted Papageorge said a highlight will be a class for youngsters 8 and younger.
The Kiddie Class for pre-4-H kids will be at 12:30 p.m. Saturday.
“It’s fun to watch kids and their grandpas out there showing them what to do,” Ted Papageorge said.
The top award for 4-H youths will be the Swiss Cow Bell award, available to a Utah 4-H member who finishes top overall, including a record book competition.
But be careful if you go to watch — the love of dairy cattle just may get in your blood.
“It’s kind of an addiction,” Harry Papageorge said. “You get started showing cows, and it just gets in your system, so you do it.”
And the senior Papageorge said such events also improve the dairy industry.
“It gives breeders a chance to compare their animals to other people’s animals, and they can decide in their own mind how they are doing in their program,” he said.
“Animals with good conformation usually are good producers, good cows.”