At the end of pretty much every county fair in Iowa, there are two awards that cause people, especially agricultural types, to gather around with great interest in seeing who will win.

The Grand Champion Market Animal and the Supreme Breeding Heifer are the goal for most 4-H kids who work with the livestock that they bring to the fair.

This year, in Story County, Dalton Birchmier of Maxwell and Carson Finch of Kelley went home on the last night of the fair as the big winners of these coveted prizes. Birchmier is the son of Shain and Kelley Birchmier. Finch is the son of Mark and Tracey Finch.

Birchmier, 18, a recent graduate of Collins-Maxwell High School, is actually a very humble three-time winner of the Grand Champion Market Animal. He’s won the award twice with heifers and once with a steer. He also previously won Reserve Market Animal.

What leads to so much success?

“You can start showing in third grade (which he did) and I haven’t missed a year. It takes a lot of hard work,” he said. He washes the animal (he never named her) twice a day, and keeps the animal in a cooler to help grow her hair. Good hair, he said, “makes the animal look better and hides any faults.”

When he saw the competition he was facing this year, Birchmier wasn’t sure he was going to win again. “Going into it, when I saw the steers, I didn’t think I’d get around them,” he said. But movement counts. His heifer, he said, “she moved well. She had all the right pieces in a package.”

Finch isn’t new to winning the big prize either, but it’s been awhile. The 16-year-old, who will be a sophomore at Ballard High School this fall, actually won Supreme Breeding Heifer when he was 13. This year, the heifer he named Dallas, born in November of 2015, won it for him.

“She was the most feminine and maternal animal out there,” he said.

Finch has been working with Dallas since last September to get her ready for shows. “I rinse her every day. Cool her. Walk her a mile every night … you don’t want them fat like a market animal,” he said.

But Dallas will be putting on a little weight for another reason. She’s due to have a calf in September. “If it’s a heifer, we’ll possibly show it and maybe sell it. If it’s a bull, most likely we’ll sell it at a sale or by private treaty,” he said.

Dallas has been a good winner for Finch. She won in a regional show earlier in July for her breed, Simmental.

Next, Finch is on to the Iowa State Fair, where he’ll show Dallas in both the FFA Show and the Open Simmental Show.

Birchmier is taking his heifer to the Iowa State Fair for the 4-H Market Heifer show, and then will likely take her to other national shows that go late into the fall around the Midwest.

For Birchmier, the win at this year’s Story County Fair wraps up his time competing at this level. The door is now open for another winner to walk through next year.

For Finch, it felt good to win big again this year. “The goal is to always keep winning, but there’s only so much you can do,” he said. He certainly hopes to be back in the winner’s circle in the county fairs he’s yet to participate in, but most of all, he said, he will be back at the county fair for the joy of being there.

“It’s good to hang out with friends. I’ve had a good time (at this year’s fair). Then - to top it all off with this (trophy) was great.”