Fair Colins Cow Hubbard

Patti Hubbard and her sons Jeffery, left, and Jonathan pose with two of their winning Ayrshire calves at Thursday’s open class dairy competition.

It’s 8:35 a.m. on Thursday, and the judge for the open class dairy cattle show is late. Traffic.

The event was supposed to start five minutes ago — and it will still be at least 15 more minutes before it gets underway — but Patti Hubbard has been at the South Mountain Creamery Arena for a little while now, waiting for the festivities to begin. No matter. Her warmth counters the rare September chill that spreads through the Frederick Fairgrounds. Upon introducing herself, that warmth presents itself via a smile.

“They call me Mother Hubbard,” she says proudly.

It makes sense. She lives for this stuff. Just ask her anything. What the judge means when he explains his reasoning behind designating first-, second- and third-place calves (dairy cows should be angular and thin, while beef cows should be more round). How long the event will take (all day). Which animal is going to win any given competition (she correctly predicts Wayne Spurrier’s fall calf and summer yearling taking the senior champion and reserve titles in their respective classes for the day’s first contest).

Or, perhaps most fascinating, why the people leading and showing each animal must be decked out in white clothing from head to toe.

“It’s a PDCA rule,” she says, referencing the Purebred Dairy Cattle Association. “It has something to do with milk, but I think it’s ridiculous. We go through a lot of bleach at home.”

After the winner for each class is announced, she jots down the place in which each entry finishes. Her attention piques when the competition for Ayrshire winter calf class commences. Two of the 15 animals she entered in Thursday’s event are participating in that contest, and her competitive juices overtake that motherly quality.

“Yeah!” Hubbard exclaims at one point near the end of the showing. “Make her look pretty!”

Representing her stable in the Ayrshire winter calf selection are Apple Butter and Apple Strudel. They are part of a family that also birthed Apple Fritter and Apple Dumplin’ — all of whom came from the original cow, Apple. That’s how it goes in naming livestock, she says. Find a letter and everything that comes from the animal must follow suit.

At stake are a blue ribbon and $50. Her son trots out Apple Strudel while a family friend leads Apple Butter through the crowd. At first glance, Hubbard zones in on Major Goose as her primary competition, but before long, those fears are quelled by the judge’s announcement.

First places goes to Butter. Third place lands on Strudel. And second place? Well, that’s actually Madison Spurrier’s King Omycka. Among the aspects of the winning calf that the judge points out are its length, balance, neck and frame.

Hubbard takes the announcement in stride. First and third aren’t bad, of course, and besides: This is only the beginning. The Mother still has the rest of the morning, an afternoon and 13 more animals to ponder. Still, she’d be remiss if she didn’t at least take a few seconds to bask in a winner’s glory.

“It feels good,” she says. “She’s a pretty damn nice heifer.

“And, you know,” Hubbard adds with an invisible wink, “she’s for sale, too.”

Then she clicks her pen, flips a page and returns to her score sheet.

Follow Colin McGuire on Twitter: @colinpadraic.

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