It's probably been a few decades since horses spent the day in front of the Crawford, Nebraska, post office. The Crawford Cattle Call brought 27 pens of cattle and three of horses to town for the day. Photo by Brenda Roberts.

There are pros and cons to living in a small town. It’s tough to own a small business because you have to compete with big business in big towns. But you can put pens of cattle on Main Street and it turns into a major social event.

That’s what the business people in Crawford, Nebraska were going for when they decided to organize the Cattle Call. Combining ideas from the Northern International Livestock Exhibition in Billings, Montana, and the Bull Bash in Valentine, Nebraska, organizer Samantha Dyer wanted to bring area ranchers to town to socialize and shop.

Dyer grew up on a purebred Hereford ranch near Crawford, and now she and her husband own the small-town grocery store. As members of the Crawford Chamber of Commerce, they’ve been trying to come up with ideas to bring people to town to shop locally.

Dyer’s background in showing cattle gave her the idea to organize a cattle display and competition. The centerpiece of the Nov. 8 event was a bred heifer pen show. Pens of panels and wood chips lined Second Street and Main Street.

The cash prizes drew 13 entries, with 14 more pens of cattle brought in just for display. Horse breeders showed two pens of yearlings and one stallion. Ag vendors and machinery dealers brought their wares. Barnyard bingo and a chili cookoff added to the competitive spirit, and a wine tasting and holiday deals and shopping opportunities gave small businesses a boost. Events for the kids included a straw maze and petting zoo.

“It was really relaxed and just a chance for all the ranchers to come to down and see each other and visit. It seems like we don’t have activities like these anymore were everyone can just get together and sit down and relax and enjoy each other’s company,” Dyer said. “It looks like it was a success. Most of the businesses gave positive feedback.”

Fred Hagman, from Chadron, Nebraska, brought three pens of cattle, two of recently-weaned heifers and one of coming two-year-old heifers. “I just wanted to take some heifers because we’re developing extra heifers each year and the late calvers that don’t fit our herd fit other people’s herds,” he said. “I think it went really well. It was a nice presentation with a lot of people there.”

There were no breed distinctions, so Hagman’s grade cattle were competing against purebred cattle and other grade heifers. The heifer pens were divided into classes by projected calving date—January and February, early March, and late March and April. The top three places in each class won a cash prize, with $500 cash going to the overall winner, and $250 to the reserve champion. Dyer Ranch of Crawford won the grand champion pen, and Clover Leaf Cattle Company of Hay Springs, Nebraska, won the reserve champion and the people’s choice belt buckle.

Judges were Kevin Nickel from Veteran, Wyoming, Marty Shepherd from Wheatland, Wyoming, and Darrel Hoar from Blackhawk, South Dakota.

Though the Crawford Chamber of Commerce had just a month to plan this year’s event and it went smoothly, they’re already beginning to think about next year’s event. “We put ‘annual’ after it, so I suppose we’ll have it again. There were so many good comments and people had so much fun I think they would be disappointed if we didn’t do it again. We’ve already caught ourselves saying, ‘next year,’” Dyer said.


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