Real stars of State Fair

By Matt Porter |

Published 08/08 2014 10:04PM

Updated 08/11 2014 01:16PM

SPRINGFIELD -- Many will be rushing to see concerts with Steely Dan and Robin Thicke at the fair this year, but some of the fair's most pampered guests don't speak a word. If you called Shelbi McCray pigheaded, she may not get upset. The 14-year old has been helping to show pigs at county and state fairs since she could walk.

"You have to really spend a lot of time with them, and get to know your pig and their personality,” McCray said.

She combs, she rubs, she gently takes care of her pigs as if they were her own.

"They're basically your best friend,” McCray said. “I'd rather spend time with my pigs than I would people."

A championship ribbon already in the books, McCray said the fair delivers something more important than prizes. It’s a community.

"We're stiff competition in the show ring and then outside we're best friends,” she said.

If hogs aren’t your thing, there’s always a lot of work to be done in the sheep barn next door.

22-year old Jared Whitcomb shows he has magic fingers with a pair of clippers.

"A lot of people do sports and have those type things in high school,” Whitcomb said. “I played basketball, but this is my other passion.”

And he's already got an apprentice, 10-year old neighbor, Tommy Westerbelt.

"Once you get used to them, it gets pretty easy,” said the sheep shearer’s apprentice. “And I have Jared as a really good coach."

For Whitcomb, he's passing down a tradition bigger than your grandmother's Christmas sweater.

"For me, it's part of agriculture,” he said. “And we need more people to be a part of agriculture to help support the world so we can supply food to everybody."

And that's no sheep trick.

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