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By DAVID CAMPHOUSE
According to John Wood Community College (JWCC) representatives, a record breaking number of high school students participated in last Friday’s 19th annual JWCC Ag Alumni Association Judging Invitational, which took place at JWCC’s Orr Agricultural Education Center outside Perry.
According to JWCC Agriculture Department Chair Mike Tenhouse, approximately 400 students from 35 Illinois and Missouri school districts participated in the event – easily surpassing the number of participating students and school districts from previous competitions.
“Pre-COVID, we had one with 340 or 350 students, which was pretty big,” Tenhouse said. “Last year, we had about 260. In our first competition, in 2003, we had 67 kids. The most schools we’d ever had before was 29 or 30.”
Tenhouse said that Illinois schools from as far away as Paris, Mt. Vernon, and Lamoille took part in the judging competition. In addition, several Missouri schools participated.
According to Tenhouse, the competition serves as an important educational opportunity for students, and the competition also serves as an important promotional tool for the JWCC Ag Program.
“It’s an educational activity that’s really popular among students,” Tenhouse said. “It also is an opportunity for us to get kids on campus, so they can see what the John Wood Ag Program is all about. It allows us to meet students that have an interest in agriculture, and animal agriculture in particular. Recruitment is vital.”
Livestock judging is not only popular among high school students. Tenhouse says that a significant portion of JWCC’s ag students participate in the school’s judging team.
“We probably have approximately 25 involved,” Tenhouse said. “That’s about half of our student population.”
2022 marked the first year that the JWCC judging competition took place in the newly built Fred L. Bradshaw Learning Center at Perry’s Orr Center.
Tenhouse said that the new facility – which houses an exposition hall and an animal care wing, in addition to classroom and office space – made for a more comfortable and efficient competition.
“It allowed people to stage animals inside,” Tenhouse said. “It was a pretty decent day outside, but the building allows for a lot of air movement. And it’s handier, safer, and more comfortable for the livestock. We had six of eight of our livestock classes in or adjacent to the building. It makes everything more accessible.”
In addition, Tenhouse said, audiovisual technology incorporated into the new facility made for a better experience for event organizers and participants.
“With the new sound system, everybody could hear instructions and what was going on,” Tenhouse said. “It even made announcing the awards easier.”
According to JWCC staff, no Pike or Scott County judging teams were among the winning teams.
Official results are expected to be released to the public by JWCC later this week.