Brooke shows bestPublished 9:14am Monday, August 10, 2009
By JOHN EBY
Dowagiac Daily News
CASSOPOLIS – Brooke Ruggles came into her third Showmanship Sweepstakes the poster girl for preparation.
Not only had she won the big trophy from the beef barn as a 13-year-old girl, but she made a second appearance in 2007, the year she graduated from Three Rivers High School.
Saturday evening, representing goats the first summer she has ever shown them, Ruggles, 20, closed out her 12-year career by carting away the coveted hardware.
Second place went to state FFA President Tiffany Rogers, who qualified with sheep, then added two more showmanship titles in beef and draft horses.
Brooke’s secret is that in the classic fish-out-of-water competition she never is out of her element, having shown every species.
For instance, after her first pinnacle with beef leading to the Showmanship Sweepstakes, she didn’t show there again, turning her attention to horses.
As she prepared for her last hurrah last week, like a tourist checking states off a travel itinerary, Brooke participated in all three remaining shows she lacked – goats, poultry and dairy – to complete her bucket list.
“I can say I’ve shown every single thing at the fair,” Ruggles said. “Even cats when I was little.”
This fall Brooke will be a junior studying finance at Western Michigan University.
“I hope to one day use it in agricultural business to give back,” she said. “I also plan to become a 4-H leader next year.” Brooke belongs to Kids-N-Kids, which started as a goat club.
Leaving the show arena Brooke received a congratulatory hug from Tiffany’s mom, Cheryl Rogers, a former 4-H youth agent who became a teacher. “I see (Tiffany) all the time showing draft horses. She’s a great girl.”
When Brooke began showing all those years ago it was with light horses, dogs and rabbits.
A self-described “jack of all trades,” she said, “What I like to do is, since I haven’t shown a beef steer in three or four years, I go in and see if I can find someone to help me out with that.”
“Judges asked a lot of very tough questions,” she recapped. “That threw me off a little bit. The good thing is that they asked a lot, so if I missed one or two, I still could do well in that species. My goat didn’t want me to touch its back leg, and to show a goat you need to touch its back leg to set it up. My pig liked to run, but I know how to cope. What a way to go out with a bang. There are so many great showmen at our fair.
“Tiffany got grand champion in the draft horse ring and I was reserve. When you lose to someone like Tiffany, you don’t feel bad about yourself, you feel good that you got second.”
Does she see herself judging such an event down the road?
“That’s not something I’m really that interested in,” Brooke said. “I’m more interested in working with the kids and helping them be the best that they can be. I already have been coaching kids in our club and in sheep and light horses – those are my two favorite categories. I really love to help them improve and then watching them in the ring.”
Growing up, “We always had horses,” she recalls. “My older brother decided to do hogs in 4-H, so as I got old enough, I did, too. I made friends in beef, so I decided to do a steer.
This year I competed in the Michigan Livestock Auction in Lansing and was grand champion in the sheep category there.”
Cally Hass of Cassopolis, who won the 2008 Showmanship Sweepstakes from sheep and swine, made the trophy presentation.