By Elissa Maudlin
HANCOCK COUNTY — Soon after the judge shook hands with Kadi Sparks, signifying her as the Grand Champion Steer of the Beef Show on Tuesday, she cried and rubbed the space between the eyes of her steer, Drake. As she passed by fellow 4-H families, she was greeted with hugs and high fives and her cousin, who was also crying, said she was “crying for her.”
However, this wasn’t the first time Kadi won the title of Steer Grand Champion. She won the same title last year.
“I never thought I was gonna be able to do it again because people always told me that after you do it once, you can’t do it again,” she said, “and I was bound and determined I was gonna do it again.”
Her reaction to her win came from the fact she did this on her own, she said. Although her family helped with feeding, she got up at 6 a.m., rinsed her cattle midday and let them out around 10 p.m.
This year, she also won Third Overall Heifer for her heifer named Iggy, Fourth Overall Steer for the steer she raised named Trip and earned the title of Champion Senior Showman.
Kadi has been doing 4-H for nine years and has shown cattle every year. Her sister, brother, cousin, dad, uncle, aunt, grandpa and her grandpa’s brothers showed cattle.
Her cousin, Lanee Swindell, showed Kadi’s steer that got Fourth Overall Steer and has been in 4-H for five years. Swindell wanted Kadi to do well at her fair because of the dedication she put into it.
“She’s a very hard worker,” Swindell said. “She puts in a lot of dedication into everything she does, and she busts her butt with everything she does.”
When she won, Swindell said she was “speechless,” and when she saw Kadi crying, she wanted to hug her.
“I’ve been there to help her with her steers and stuff, and I just know how long and how much effort she’s put into her cows … ” she said. “I know how it feels to win and she’s got grand steer twice, and she’s had one heck of a fair. I’m so proud of her.”
Josh Sparks, Kadi’s dad, said she “has raised [the heifer] since the first day,” and works non-stop with the two steers, rinsing them three times a day. After high school, he said she wants to be a full-time herdsman.
“This is her passion and she works her rear end off at it,” he said.
She spends six to eight hours in the barn with the cattle at night, and the work leading up to showing cattle “is the big picture,” he said. Kadi wanted to show four or five cattle at the fair this year.
“I told her that if she put in the work, I’d figure out a way to pay for the feed,” he said, “and she put in the work and look where it got her.”
When it came to the process of getting to the fair, Kadi said “it was blood, sweat and tears literally,” but that it was worth it.
“I never thought I was going to do anything good with these steers because people always talk down on them. They’re like, ‘You can’t do good with them because they’re not gonna get halter broke and they won’t be good enough,’” she said. “And I just kind of put that to my side and I just kept doing what I knew I had to do … ’”
Her heifer was raised at her “pa-paw’s” house but they never thought the heifer would be good enough because she had breathing issues they assumed were her lungs. She said she started working with the heifer and her “pa-paw” told her he wanted her to do well with the heifer, which she ended up getting third overall with.
“She’s really self motivated,” Pat Sparks, her “pa-paw,” said. “You know, she’d rather spend time in the barn with the calves and [be] outside all the time.”
When Kadi won, he thought about “all the times that she didn’t win leading up to [the show] and she never gave up. She kept her eye [on it].”
Kadi said her dad and her “pa-paw” are her two biggest inspirations when it came to the competition. Every night, her dad and her would talk about what they needed to change on the cattle on their drive home from the fairgrounds.
“[The day of the show] we were like, ‘I think we’re finally to that point,’” Kadi said.
To the girls and boys who look up to her, Kadi told them to not stop working.
“If you think you don’t have a good enough calf, work for it because I swear you will get there,” she said.