'Harriet' and 'Classic Lady' won't get their moment in the Stampede spotlight this year

Harriet the sheep and Classic Lady the cow were to be shown as part of 4-H competitions during the 2020 Calgary Stampede.

4-H Club kids deal with disappointment of cancelled events

Ellie Woolf, 14, shows off her sheep Harriet at the Summer Synergy Competition in Olds last year. Woolf had planned to show Harriet at the Calgary Stampede this year during the 4-H competitions, which were cancelled along with Stampede. (Kristin Woolf)

Harriet the sheep and Classic Lady the cow had big plans this week. Both were to be shown as part of 4-H competitions during the 2020 Calgary Stampede.

The Stampede was, of course, cancelled this year due to COVID-19 restrictions, leaving Harriett, Classic Lady and their young owners in the lurch.

"I was disappointed at first because it was such a good experience for me last year," said Harriet's owner, 14-year-old Ellie Woolf. "I learned so much through that event."

Woolf, who is from Welling, south of Lethbridge, had a number of sheep entered in the competition. And 15-year-old Lexi Dietrich of Forestburg, in northern Alberta, had planned to show a number of cattle, including Classic Lady. 

"I was planning on taking three of my heifers," Dietrich told The Homestretch. "They're all very different in their own ways. They're different colours. I have a heifer named Jujube that's yellow coloured and then a black heifer named Mistress, and then Classic Lady's my red heifer, and I would have been taking them to Calgary for the first time for each of them."

Dietrich said she puts a lot of time into preparing her animals for the Stampede.

Lexi Dietrich, 15, with her red hiefer Classic Lady, at the Canadian Bull Congress show in Camrose, Alberta. (Submitted by Lexi Dietrich)

"It is a lot of work, a lot of hours spent in the barn working with them making sure that they're used to the people and everything that goes on in Calgary, and getting their hair trained," she said. "We need to ensure that their hair is good, and keep them clipped and trim their hooves sometimes, and just keep them healthy."

Both girls have substituted the big show with competing in some smaller-scale virtual shows with their animals, which they entered by submitting videos. The results aren't in yet. Woolf said it's not the same as a live competition, though the judges are looking at the same criteria.

"They are looking for good confirmation, so good teeth, you want a long straight back, you want good balance, even muscling, and you want them to be tame and docile," Woolf said. "What I love about showing sheep is that there is a lot less risk and they're super easy to handle and they're just super awesome."

Dietrich will miss having the live experience and the excitement of Stampede; she enjoys travelling to shows, meeting people and seeing the cattle be presented. 

"I just love doing it," she said. "I've always done it and it's my favourite hobby."

4-H competitors show off their prize animals at the 2019 Summer Synergy Competition in Olds, Alta. (Summer Synergy Competition)

Dietrich is the youngest of four in a ranching family.

"I was born into it. My family has always had a cattle herd," Dietrich said. "All my siblings have done it and I've learned everything I know about cattle from my family, and I'm very fortunate that I love to do it."

Woolf said she got started when her family moved to a small farm eight years ago and got three sheep. She joined 4-H four years ago, and plans to raise her own flock some day.

Dietrich, also a 4-H member, plans to stay in agriculture. 

"I'm hoping to stick with some of our cattle genetics and create my own cattle herd," she said. "I am fortunate enough to own a couple beef cattle, like a small herd, but I'm looking forward to expanding it to keep producing cattle and stay in the industry."

Both Dietrich and Woolf say the animals are among their favourite creatures.

"The way to a sheep's heart is through their stomach," Woolf said. "So if you're the one doing the chores, they are starting to love you."

Dietrich agrees. 

"I consider some of my favourite show cows to be my best friends," she said. "I love going out to the pasture, and even if they aren't in the show pen, giving them a good old scratch and making sure that they still know that I care about them."

Listen to the full interview on The Homestretch here:

We talk to two 4H members who are unable to show their animals this year due to the pandemic. 7:57