Thousands raised for fair champion whose banners were vandalized

Published 2:30 pm Thursday, August 3, 2023

CASSOPOLIS — A Cass County Fair champion whose banners were defaced by vandals has received more than $2,000 and counting in donations from people across the country.

Brianna Stockwell arrived at the Cass County Fair Dairy Barn Wednesday morning to find her Grand Champion Dairy Feeder, Champion Steer Showman and Champion Middleweight banners defaced by vandals. Stockwell told her parents, who contacted the fair board. The investigation was then turned over to the Cassopolis Police Department.

“I already had two friends in the barn. They beat me there,” Stockwell said. “They told me not to come in the barn, they were trying to get the signs down so I didn’t see them. But I panicked thinking my steer got hurt. I wanted to make sure he was okay. I came in and I kinda sat there for a minute in pure shock and then the tears started rolling.

“It was a lot of emotions. We want to know who did it because it was kinda uncalled for.”

Just hours after discovering the vandalism, Stockwell, who is in her final year of fair eligibility, was able to regroup and add Champion Market Swine Champion Overall Market Heifer awards to her wins this year.

“It’s been a great week for me,” she said. “I don’t know if I shouldn’t have done so well in (the vandal’s) eyes? It’s just a lot to process. I work my booty off for this. My steer gets walked and washed every single day. He gets blow-dried, he eats with me most of the time. He’s the biggest baby; I had kids playing with him the other day in his pen.”

“She works so hard,” said Stockwell’s mother, Jennifer. “She puts so much time and effort into her animals and is usually the first one in the barns… To have that done to any kid – not just mine, but any kid – is just bad.”

Stockwell, 20, has been competing in Cass County fair activities for 11 years and has traveled across the state and country competing in various livestock competitions. While she has experienced negative reactions because of her success, she has not let it stop her from doing what she loves.

“I’ve had a lot of backlash about it,” she said. “A lot of people don’t like losing – it’s a competitive environment – and that’s fine. With the good comes a lot of bad.”

A Facebook post made Wednesday by a friend bringing attention to the incident went viral. As of Thursday morning, the post has been shared more than 400 times with more than 200 comments. 

Stockwell said she has been overwhelmed by the support she has received from community members as well as people and organizations from across the country. She said she has been invited to watch the Miss United States Agriculture Pageant. Florida-based Stock Signs and Designs offered to create new custom award banners for Stockwell free of charge.

“So many people have reached out,” “Even if they couldn’t support something, they at least texted me or called me. I’ve had people from Maine, Oregon, Texas, Colorado and Missouri reach out. It’s been amazing.”

In addition to the funds donated to Stockwell’s Venmo account, Jennifer said that more donations were still coming in that have not been tallied yet. Funds donated went towards the purchase of Stockwell’s livestock at the Aug. 3 livestock auction and fair activities and will also be going toward Stockwell’s college expenses.

A Dowagiac Union High School alumna, Stockwell received her Associate of Science degree in from Black Hawk College in Kewanee, Illinois this past spring, where she also competed on the national champion livestock judging team for two years and will be attending Oklahoma State University this fall to double major in agricultural business and communications. She hopes to one day work with agricultural magazines or breed registry.

“I want to work in an environment that allows me to talk to kids and help kids grow in an agricultural way,” “I like traveling and I like meeting people.”