The Life of a Ribbon After the Show

If you’ve ever shown livestock at the N.C. State Fair, you know that if you walk away with nothing else, you will leave with awesome memories and at least one ribbon. If you are like many livestock showman, you leave with several ribbons, because let’s be honest, many of us can’t show just one animal. I’d say it’s a problem we have, but I don’t think it really is a problem. And, if you are like a lot of livestock showman, you have ribbons that span years of livestock showing.

I may or may not be talking about myself here. If you haven’t shown livestock, and are a little lost at what I’m talking about, let me give you a better picture. This past fair, my family brought 18 sheep and two pigs to the fair. In years past, we’ve brought more than a dozen goats, up to four turkeys, and as many as five pigs. The numbers fluctuate, but all in all, for the past 15 years, my family has shown more than a few animals at the fair. Each of those animals got some color ribbon. At times, banners, plaques, and buckles were also won.

As you can well-imagine, we have quite the hoard of ribbons. That isn’t to say that we still have all the ribbons. Some were eaten by a goat or accidentally washed in the laundry. Some have simply faded to an unrecognizable state over the past 15 years.

Some ribbons mean more than others. You may think that a dark blue first place ribbon means more than a light colored 12th place blue, but that isn’t always the case. You see, many ribbons have stories behind them.

Like the time our little doe goat won third place. That’s a big deal at the N.C. State Fair (at least for us it was). We had raised her on our farm, so we were super excited to be in top five. What makes this story, though is what she looked like. As we were preparing her for the show, our clippers gave out. She looked a hot mess and was all patchy. The judge even said something about it. That white, third place ribbon will always stick out to me for that reason.

Sometimes, though, it is the blue ribbons and purple banners that mean the most. Like the blue ribbon that one of our goats won after almost dying earlier in the year, or the last year ever I was able to show a pig in showmanship, and won the purple banner. I cried. For Taylor Glover, her purple banner (and Got to Be N.C. green banner) brought her to tears as well.

Some ribbons are learning lessons. The first time I ever showed wool sheep, I ended up in last place because my sheep’s wool was too short. I’ve never had that problem again.

Over the years, there have been many a ribbon received at the fair. Some are displayed on my wall. Others are safely stored in memory boxes. Some can be found in some goat’s stomach.

For those who have amassed a collection of livestock show banners and ribbons, many have come up with various ways to use the ribbons.

There are those who tuck them away to look through at another date, while others tack a nail in the wall and create a display. Some have found more creative ways to use their ribbons, like decorating a Christmas tree with them or creating a quilt, pillow, or wreathe from them.

Mason Stallings and his ribbon tree

Taylor Glover uses pig and cow ornaments with ribbons to decorate her tree.

Powell Family tree complete with light up pigs!

Megan Lawing used her ribbons as a backdrop to her senior photos.

Kali Mabe has quite the collection of ribbons, banners, and jackets that she used for her senior picture backdrop

Laura Jessup decorates her room with her ribbons

Me? Well, I’m more of a display person, myself. In our barn is a line of ribbons from years ago. They are a little tattered but provide a bit of color. I have a display of purple banners on my office wall that I enjoy.

While not every ribbon is displayed on a wall (can you imagine 15 years of ribbons on a wall??), every ribbon means something. That meaning can be as wonderful as joy and as sad as failure, but each holds a memory and a lesson.

Adam Brown’s ribbons are hung and organized by year.


About Marisa Linton See

Marisa grew up showing and raising livestock in NC. She has shown animals at the N.C. State Fair for 15 years and is a past youth livestock scholarship recipient. She is an N.C. State University graduate, agricultural photographer and blogger.

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