Fourteen-year-old Lilly Perez sat at home Saturday afternoon, her right leg elevated, her ankle wrapped in an ice pack.
It wasn't where Lilly had planned to be, and certainly was not the preferred stance for someone hoping to win goat championships at the Hernando County Fair and Youth Livestock Show.
Earlier in the day, the Floral City 4-H member had been unloading show goats from her family's livestock trailer, her arms wrapped around a kid of some 40 pounds. As she stepped off the tailgate, farther above the ground than she anticipated, Lilly landed with her ankle twisted. It ballooned immediately.
"We had to take her home," said her mother, Toni Perez.
Left in a show ring lurch were about a dozen entrants in the goat show.
Toni and father Jesse Perez scrambled to enlist young showmen to take Lilly's place in the contest arena.
In well-accepted 4-H teachings of responsibility, cooperation and help for others, her peers enthusiastically responded, even though they were parading goats of their own against Lilly's entries.
In the end, it turned out to be a pretty good day for Lilly, during the return of goat judging at this year's fair.
The stand-ins did what they deemed their duty, showing Lilly's goats to their best.
Ten-year-old George Slay of Wesley Chapel, of the Hooves, Paws, Claws and Saws 4-H Club, paraded Lilly's aged-class LaMancha doe to the grand championship in the milking goat show.
Megan Mulvhill, 12, a member of the Jolly Ranchers 4-H Club, stepped up to show Lilly's senior doe, also of the LaMancha breed, to the reserve grand championship.
When her parents called Lilly to report the results, the teen's first question was: "Did they behave?"
Although Lilly has worked to tame, walk and prepare her animals for the show ring experience, she wasn't able to overcome the bossy attitude of Cimarron, who has an attitude with other goats, butting them and nipping at their ears.
But Flay handled the nanny admirably as it took the top prize.
Dana Klimas, 14, of the Hernando County Junior Cattlemen's Association and a rabbit raiser, took a goat leash in hand and showed Lilly's junior doe to a first place prize.
"I wanted to see how it would be different to show a goat because I never did it before," Dana said.
Jackie Brown, 17, from Marion County's Y-Not 4-H Club, handled Lilly's junior Nubian doe to a first place finish.
Milk goat judge Laura Pierson, owner of Keuka Kids Nubian Farms at Interlachen and a goat breeder for 30 years, opened the first goat show at the fair in five years with a showmanship clinic, instructing showmen, many first-timers, in proper movements for presenting their animals to a judge and setting up their stock to their best advantage.
Never walk behind the animal because it can bolt, leaving the handler without a hold on the leash and the showman's rear end in the tanbark ring, Pierson advised. Hold the goat's head high and alert; at a stop, place its legs four-square under its body; always present the goat rather than oneself to the judge by positioning the animal in the forefront, the handler to the side opposite the judge.
Hailey Huffman of Brooksville, 11 and member of the Klassic Kritters 4-H Club, and Jackie Brown responded best to Pierson's directions, earning junior and senior showmanship championships, respectively.
In the meat goat show competitions, Brett Naugler, 13, of the Jolly Rogers 4-H Club earned the champion wether (a castrated goat) honor with a 110-pounder.
"Do you want to know how I did it?" he said. "Every morning I feed. This morning I bathed (him), dried out his coat and smoothed his horns."
Judge Allyn Walker of Edgewater, whose daughter showed champion and reserve goat wethers at the Florida State Fair this year, praised Brett's entry for its muscling and conditioning without fat.
Walker admitted to a "tough call" between Brett's entry and Jackie's 75-pounder, the judge pointing out that many consumers of goats prefer the smaller size. Jackie's goat won reserve grand champion.
Hailey Huffman stepped again to the winner's circle with the champion and reserve champion meat goat does, selected from her family's 50-head herd. Of the champion, a heavyweight, the youngster said: "I just picked one that had better structure, one that looked the best and one that I could walk."
Walker praised the animal's "big skeleton that has potential for muscle to pass on" as a breeder.
The few but enthusiastic goat breeders in Hernando County praised the return of goat judging to the fair.
Boer goat producer Tammy Lodato of Brooksville's Soaring Spirit Ranch vowed to work to establish next year's goat competition as a Florida Goat Association-sanctioned event.
Beth Gray can be contacted at [email protected]