By Rebecca Oltmans
Hastings (NE) Tribune
HASTINGS, NE (AP)--A few years ago Josh Oltmans of Nelson began to wonder why he had to drive so far to compete in cattle shows.
"Why doesn't Nelson have a show?" he asked his father as they drove home from one of the spring cattle shows in surrounding counties.
His father's answer? "Why don't you get one started?"
So he did.
"I took him seriously," the Nelson High School sophomore said.
The result was the Elk Creek Beef Expo.
From his family's farm near Nelson, Oltmans organized the event, lining up sponsors, a judge, advertising and the countless details that are part of a successful cattle show, using his contacts and knowledge as an FFA member in the process.
The first show fell on a cold April day last year, but it was a success--enough so that the second annual Elk Creek Beef Expo recently took place at the Nuckolls County Fairgrounds in Nelson.
Oltmans is a natural choice to start such an event. His family has a herd of Maine-Anjou cattle, he is active in FFA and summers for him mean "baseball and showing cattle."
He participates in cattle shows several months of the year, from the Cattleman's Classic at Kearney to the county fair and state fair at the summer's end. But that did not mean starting a new beef expo would be easy.
"I learned it was a lot more work than I thought," Oltmans said.
The work started with asking people for money, a task that was much harder than he expected. People were somewhat reluctant to contribute to a new event, Oltmans said, and he is thankful for the businesses that did.
The second most challenging task was finding an open date that was a match with the school calendar. Oltmans' own calendar is nearly full this time of year, with school, sports, drama and music.
He worried about how it would all turn out, "that someone would feel cheated and come up and yell at me or that we would only get 10 head or something."
It all came together. He raised the money. And the show drew 40 head of cattle and competitors from Nelson, Blue Hill, Lawrence, Seward, Inavale and Superior.
"That first year was amazing," he said. "When I went to the fairgrounds and saw everyone competing at my show, it took a while to set in. "
He didn't do it all alone. Another lesson of his project was how many people are needed to pull off such an event.
The day of the show he had grandmas, cousins and aunts pitching in, helping weigh entries, answering questions, giving directions and selling rolls and juice. His entire family--father, Jim, mother, Terri, and younger brothers Austin and Brady--also pitched in.
It was a big relief when nothing went wrong except for a few computer/printer glitches. Competitors told Oltmans they liked the prizes he offered. Along with cash awards for champions, Oltmans gives out prizes such as buckets or curry combs to class winners.
Oltmans said he is glad he started the expo. He can list it as one of his biggest accomplishments to date and he said he learned a lot about talking to people and raising money.
Oltmans said he hopes the show sparks more interest among local youths about showing cattle and working with their animals earlier in the year.
He also hopes it boosts participation at the county fair. He said it still surprises him how many people know him for planning the expo. Some of his peers recently mentioned it to him at a track meet.
"And sometimes people around here will see me and say 'Hey aren't you the kid that put on that show?"'