Felix was never supposed to even be a show calf, much less a champion of anything.
The Schaefer clan found Felix at a feed lot, where a lot of calves are usually hard to manage.
Those calves have never been handled. They’ve never had a halter on them. Not a real good mix if you want them to trust humans.
He just turned into a baby, though, says Randy Schaefer.
Sunday, a full-grown Felix, whose only drawback is that maybe he likes to brush his face against humans and gently knock them down from time to time, was grazing in his stall at the Allen County Fairgrounds on Carroll Road.
Above him hung a banner announcing him as the grand champion dairy beef steer of the Allen County Fair.
And while Randy’s 17-year-old daughter, Beth, will probably get credit for entering the steer, Felix’s win is a Schaefer family affair. Just like all the previous accolades their animals have garnered at the fair for years and years.
We were both in 4-H when we were kids, says Randy of him and his wife, Sue. That’s how it started with us.
Randy and Sue are now 53 and they remember when the fair was held at Memorial Coliseum way back when. But it’s never been far from them, not once they began having children, all of whom have embraced the fair with open arms.
First there was 25-year-old Mitch; then came 22-year-old Lindsey; and finally there is Beth, who this year participated in her second to last fair, since involvement in 4-H ends at 18.
We didn’t force them or anything, Randy, a farmer in Allen County, said jokingly.
The fair not only instilled a sense of work ethic and compassion for animals in Randy and Sue’s kids, but also a sense of competition.
The Schaefer kids usually showed pigs or calves at the fair, and figuring out who would show which animal could lead to a bit of a sibling rivalry.
All year the kids would devise a list ranking which animals they wanted most. Then, during one dinner during the summer, the Schaefers would have their children pick which ones they wanted.
They did so this way:
Mitch, the oldest, would get first pick. Then Lindsey. Then Beth would get two picks.
Then everything would repeat.
Needless to say, each list of rankings the kids made was top-secret. And like most families, the two older Schaefer children would try to dupe Beth as far as which animals were good for show and which weren’t.
They would leave her out to dry, says Randy, remembering the times he had to help out his youngest.
While some of those nights when the children picked led to some fighting and maybe hard feelings, none of it lasted long.
We learned about being a good loser, Lindsey says.
Plus, in the end, it didn’t matter. Success by one Schaefer at the fair was seen as success by all the Schaefers, according to Randy.
Enter as a family. Win as a family.
So it might go down as one Schaefer winning for Felix, a big steer who now eats 35 pounds of feed a day and is destined for the Indiana State Fair, but he’s a testament to the family.
And the Schaefers are far from done with the fair, even though Beth is turning 18 next year.
Lindsey, because of her involvement in the fair, is now into judging animals at various fairs and hopes to possibly make a living off it someday.
She and Beth say when they have children, their kids will be involved.
Already, there is a calf ready to be shown next year to succeed Felix – little Bodean, who eats 15 pounds of feed a day and who Lindsey is helping Beth raise.
He’s our best little feeder calf, Lindsay says.
Randy and Sue can’t wait for their time in the fair to continue. The fair has been their children’s favorite week of the summer, the Schaefers said.
But while he loves the fair, it’s the opportunities it brings about that Randy sometimes marvels at and reminisces about.
In fact, his favorite part is not the fair itself, but just before it begins.
One night or one morning before the fair, Randy, Sue and the kids gather the animals they’re entering and go for the walk. They’ll chat with each other, make sure the animals are in order, and just enjoy each other’s company.
Those are nice times, Randy says. They’re really nice times.
And that’s a true family affair.