Black Hills Stock Show: Sheep shearing championships gain popularity
When the Black Hills Stock Show (BHSS) added a sheep shearing competition to the lineup three years ago, no one realized how popular the event would become.
“The contest has definitely grown more than my expectations,” says Curt Olson of Broadus, MT, who organizes the event. “Every year, we receive a lot of positive comments about the event and how entertaining it is. I’m told by many of the shearers that the Black Hills event is the one to compete in.”
Although it is a shearing competition, Olson says he likes to think of the event as a show. “In other countries, they call sheep shearing competitions, a shearing show. That is what we want to have here – we want to put on a show for the audience.”
Each year, the event adds more to its lineup. Last year, it was a crank and hand blade demonstration. This year, it will be a father-son contest. “The father will shear a sheep, then the son will shear one, and we will combine their scores to determine the winner,” Olson says.
In addition, the audience will be treated to the old-time crank hand piece shearing demonstration and a blade shearing demonstration, where shearers demonstrate how to shear a sheep with hand blades, and then with the crank shearing method.
There will also be a sheep calling contest for women. The main finale will be the shearing contest, where contestants will compete in the beginning, intermediate, or professional divisions depending upon their experience. Olson says he meets with shearers and judges prior to the start of the contest to determine which category each shearer should compete in. “We would like to keep the shearers consistent. If they can’t shear a sheep within a minute of each other, one of them is in the wrong category,” he says.
During the event, each contestant uses electronic shearing equipment to shear eight head in the preliminary round. Judges watch the shearers and score them not only for speed, but also for condition of the fleece, the number of nicks, second cuts in the wool, appearance of the sheep and handling. “In the back, the judge turns the sheep over and counts every single nick,” Olson says.
The top finishers from the preliminary competition advances to the championship round. Winners of the event receive prize money and other awards.
The goal behind the event is to make it a contest for the shearers, and entertaining and educational for the public, Olson says. “We also want to promote the industry,” he adds.
“We have a lot of interest,” Olson notes, adding that pre-entries aren’t required for the event. “We expect around 50 shearers will compete this year. We have a lot of support from area ranchers, in addition to the Montana and South Dakota Sheep Growers Association. The event is definitely growing, and getting better and better each year.”
This year’s event is free to the public, and plenty of seating will be available. The event will be held on Sunday, Jan. 30 in Rushmore Hall at the Civic Center. The sheep shearing demonstration begins at 10 a.m. in the Crystalyx BioBarrel Sale Ring, followed by the shearing championships at 12 p.m.
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