VALLEJO — Sixteen-year-old Siera Giron raised the Solano County Fair’s grand-champion turkey not on a farm in the country, but at her Benicia home.
Just a typical, residential neighborhood in the city can be the setting for 4-H Club and Future Farmers of America excellence. The Jack and Bernice Newell Memorial Junior Livestock Auction on Sunday — the final day of the fair’s five-day run at the Vallejo fairgrounds – proved it.
Siera stood before a crowd holding her 27-pound turkey upside down by the legs, its wings outstretched. She had the purple grand champion ribbon for the bird hanging from her belt.
Auctioneer Joe Gates let loose a torrent of words into his microphone, urging on buyers and praising the youths. The smell of hay and sawdust filled the air, with the sounds of people talking, ducks quacking, goats bleating in the background.
“Let’s hear it for the grand-champion turkey . . . $500, $600, six-and-a-half. Now $700 . . . $850 . . . $1,000 – it’s the best turkey we’ve got – Sold! One thousand dollars,” Gates said.
Or rather, he said that and a lot more. Following his rapid-style delivery verbatim would be just about impossible.
Siera then took her white turkey to a blue, metal pen. It sat down on the sawdust floor and shut its eyes, apparently tired from its moment in the spotlight.
She’ll probably miss the turkey, Siera said. But she has kept an emotional distance from the bird in one sense.
“I don’t think I ever named him,” Siera said.
Now she has $1,000. She expects to save some of her winnings to buy animals for the Dixon May Fair and to pay her mother back for the expenses related to the Solano County Fair. Then she’ll have a little left over.
Siera comes from a 4-H family. Her 11-year-old sister Madeline and 13-year-old sister Jennifer are also members. At home, they in recent months have had one turkey, 12 quails, five guinea pigs and nine rabbits. They keep two pigs at a farm near Vacaville.
Summer Giron, their mother, is fine with the animal menagerie.
“I was raised on a farm down south, in Chino,” Summer Giron said, adding she wants her daughter to know where their food comes from and how it is raised.
Madeline’s guinea pig won a grand champion award. There’s no place at the livestock auction for guinea pigs, which might be just as well. Madeline called this particular guinea pig her favorite.
She did auction off three rabbits. Before going to the showing area before the crowd, she held one and had two others in a small, yellow, plastic laundry basket. The white rabbits had flower decorations on their heads.
“I’m going to miss them. . . . I played with them a lot,” Madeline said, then added with a shrug that the auction is fun.
Gates went to work – “$275, now $300, now $325 . . . you get to keep the bow . . . Sold! Three hundred and twenty five.”
The Girons are members of the Wolfskill 4-H Club in Dixon. That means a lot of trips across the county from Benicia to Dixon, with Siera sometimes taking the train to Davis and getting a ride to the 4-H events.
Sixteen-year-old Tyler Heal, of Rio Vista, auctioned off two white ducks as a pair, each 7.5 pounds. He, too, raised the ducks in the city, at his house.
“You can do it right in your backyard,” he said.
The secret to raising champion ducks?
“Lots of exercise. Room to swim. And good food,” Tyler said.
His five ducks do their swimming in a plastic pool. But one duck is afraid of the water, prompting Tyler to nickname him Chuck, for “chicken” and “duck.”
Gates once again went to work.
“These are the champions. They’re the best we’ve got,” he told the crowd, before bringing in a price of $450.
Tyler has plans for his winnings.
“I’ll probably use it to kickstart my next project, a market hog for the Dixon May Fair,” he said.
That’s an animal that can’t be raised in the backyard of a city home. Tyler is a member of Future Farmers of America and plans to keep the hog at the group’s Rio Vista High School facility.
Reach Barry Eberling at 427-6929 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/beberlingdr.