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The road from Georgia to Billings is a journey.

“It is a huge two-week commitment,” said Kathy Kohlbeck. “Some are traveling a very long way.”

The journeys from Vermont, Georgia, California and Alberta all end in Billings next week where the Montana Junior Hereford Association will host this year’s national show, said Kohlbeck, of Bozeman, one of many adults who have planned for two years to serve as host to the premier cattle show for the breed’s younger owners.

All next week, More than 550 young people, ages 7 to 21, will converge, bringing along more than 1,200 head of the best polled and horned Herefords in North America. Thirty-five states and four Canadian provinces will be represented. Herefords, one of the historic English beef cattle breeds, were introduced into North America in the 1860s.

A minimum of three “staff” accompany every participant. “It becomes a huge family vacation,” Kohlbeck said. It is not unusual for three generations to travel to the event.

Kohlbeck and her husband, Chuck, operate the Storey Hereford Ranch near Bozeman, a registered Hereford operation founded in 1921 by Kathy’s grandfather Wilbur Storey.

Her daughter, Katelyn, 10, will continue a family tradition in Billings.

She said many of those coming from afar will travel at night when it is cooler, laying over during the day and allowing the animals to drink.

“It is probably easier for them to come here than for us to go to Louisville,” she said. “It will seem cooler for them. There’re 40 head coming from Illinois in pots. They will have a comfortable stall-like situation.” A pot is slang for a livestock hauling truck.

Each entry must pay a $50 bedding fee, which covers the use of the facility, Kohlbeck said, but the host committee had to raise another $50,000 to cover the costs of the show.

But for the young exhibitors at the Junior National Hereford Expo at MetraPark, it’s a trip for glory not prize money.

A livestock judging contest for all JNHE participants begins Tuesday at 9 a.m. 4-H & FFA teams from throughout the region are invited to compete for individual and team awards.

A total of 1,209 animals is entered, Kohlbeck said, with 980 heifers, 96 steers, 73 bulls and 30 cow/calf pairs. Four hundred sixty-two youths will show the cattle and another 102 will take part in other Expo events.Show details Three days of cattle shows kick off Wednesday with Troy Thomas of Harrold, S.D., evaluating the combined bred and owned heifer show; junior AI heifers; bred & owned bulls; junior AI bulls, steers and cow/calf pairs. Steers vie for two titles Wednesday, champion live steer and champion carcass steer, which is determined by ultrasound data taken before the show. The lucky exhibitor of the champion bred and owned heifer wins a year’s use of a Featherlite trailer donated by Perry’s Trailer Sales, of Billings, Sheridan and Cody.

Pee wee, junior, intermediate, and senior showmanship contests fill Thursday’s schedule for judges Thomas Coop, of Shelbyville, Tenn., and Ned and Jan Ward of Sheridan, Wyo.

The owned heifer show begins Friday and concludes Saturday. Dan Hoge, of Walnut, Ill., will judge both days.

Junior participants will also compete in illustrated speech, livestock judging, team fitting, team marketing and showmanship contests throughout the week. In addition, scholarship interviews, barnyard olympics, 3-on-3 basketball, Hereford Bowl, a cowboy beach party and a junior dance top off the week’s many contests and activities. Contest winners are announced at the Friday evening pitchfork fondue awards ceremony.

For more information, visit the American Hereford Association Web site hereford.org or call Jodi Bishop, director of junior activities, at 816-842-3757.

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