History of the AAJS
The All-American Junior Show was the brainchild of Bill Crutcher, long-time Shepherd at Oklahoma State University, who thought the sheep industry needed a multi-breed junior show sometime during the Summer months –preferably around the Fourth of July weekend. A meeting was held at the 1993 Midwest Stud Ram Sale with several of the breed secretaries in attendance. The All-American made its debut show July 1st-3rd, 1994 at the Monroe County Fairgrounds in Bloomington, Indiana.
The first show featured 6 breeds: Columbia, Dorset, Hampshire, Montadale, Rambouillet, and Southdown with almost 800 head of breeding sheep and market lambs from approximately 200 junior exhibitors. A wool show, Showmanship competition, and Promotional Contests were included in the first show along with the Three on Three Basketball tournament and the Top Gun Award for each breed. In 1995, classes for Cheviots, Corriedales and Shropshires were added with Oxfords soon to follow. Many other breeds have been added over the years so now there are over 20 breeds with classes at the All American.
In 1996, the All-American Junior Show was moved to Franklin, Indiana where it remained for a number of years and continued to grow with the addition of other breeds and an increase in the number of exhibitors. By 1997, the AAJS featured a Lamb Camp for juniors 8 and younger and had over 1200 head of sheep from 300 exhibitors in 23 states. In 2002, having outgrown the Franklin facility, the show was moved to Sedalia, Missouri which also hosted it in 2005 and 2008. The plan was to rotate the show around Midwest locations to get new participation as well as a following to each location. The Darke County Fairgrounds at Greenville, Ohio, and the Wisconsin State Fairgrounds hosted shows along with Michigan State University. Three times however, the show has been held on the East Coast, twice at the Big E location in Massachusetts and once in Delaware. The purpose of the All American Junior Show is to provide a family vacation event for young sheep producers across the Nation, to give juniors an opportunity to meet other juniors; to help juniors learn more about the different breeds and to learn marketing techniques for purebred sheep.
The All-American Junior Show treats each breed alike. There is no Supreme Champion or Grand Champion Market Lamb. All class winners and Champions receive similar awards, but the premiums schedule is adjusted for larger classes. In every contest, each class winner receives an award and every exhibitor is given a T-Shirt for their participation.
The All-American is proud to not only have great competition in the show ring, but also in the other contests hosted at the event. Sam and Pat Wiford have been hosting the Skill-A-Thon for the AAJS for many years. Along with their volunteers, each exhibitor is tested on questions and activities relating to the sheep industry. In 2002, Bert Moore helped to add a Judging Contest to the All-American helping to reinforce the other skills that exhibitors should have to support the industry later in life. Each year other activities are included depending on the location and support from the community of the host site. Michigan State University provided a university tour along with a pie and ice cream social, and Delaware arranged a trip to the beach along their coastline. We can’t wait to see what future sites will bring about for our exhibitors to experience.
The All-American Junior Show is a coordinated volunteer effort by the breed associations of the participating breeds and has an annual budget of over $100,000. Only summer interns have ever received remuneration for their work. Each breed is responsible for a donation amount depending on how many classes that breed show will have. Numerous fund-raisers and auctions are conducted each year to augment the entry fees collected in order to meet this budget. The AAJS raffle, and newly added silent auction baskets have helped to raise a significant portion of the funding.
For fifteen years, much of the planning work was done by the Hampshire and Montadale associations, but in 2009 Deb Hopkins, Secretary of the Continental Dorset Club, has taken over as the show chairman and now plays a huge role in the planning and the executing of the event along with the other executive committee members.