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Hallettsville students win big at Star of Texas Fair and Rodeo

By Jessica Rodrigo
April 12, 2014 at 12:01 a.m.
Updated April 11, 2014 at 11:12 p.m.

Madison Etzler, 16, third from left, won grand champion for her pen of broilers at the Star of Texas Fair and Rodeo in Austin  on March 5. Pictured are, from left, a representative of the show;  Delaney Etzler, sister; Madison; and Trent Malaer, a student at Sacred Heart Catholic High School.

Two Hallettsville students took home grand and reserve champion awards during the Star of Texas Fair and Rodeo in Austin in March.

Madison Etzler, 16, a sophomore at Sacred Heart Catholic High School, showed the grand champion pen of broilers.

Standing next to her was Wesley Tullos, 15, a freshman at Hallettsville High School, who took home the reserve champion honors.

"We just try to do the best for Hallettsville," said Wesley, who is a member of Hallettsville FFA.

The students got involved in stock shows and raising animals when they each were in third grade.

This year was Wesley's fourth year and Madison's first year to show in Austin.

The students started with 75 chicks and brought their three best broilers to be judged in Austin.

With the help of their longtime mentor, Charlie Leopold, the two were able to take top honors at the event.

"Charlie said we should give it a try because it's fun," said Madison, who is a member of the Lucky H 4-H Club. "We decided to do it and ended up doing really well."

Leopold, 52, of Hallettsville, helped his children, now 21 and 23, show broilers in the stock shows when they were younger and continues to help students in Hallettsville show animals in the competition.

"My part is just a little bitty part," he said. "It's the kids who do it."

He enjoys teaching the children responsibility and how to care for living things and sharing his experience of raising hogs and broilers when he was younger.

When Madison and Wesley went to compete in Austin, Leopold wasn't able to attend because he was in New Mexico for work.

He said the two teens kept him updated with text messages of the judges' remarks and scores the entire time.

"I was squealing and hollering and giving out high-fives when I heard from them," said Leopold. "It's an awesome payback to hear they do well."

Madison was surprised when she won grand champion because this was her first time to show. She also said the broiler project was started to help her sister with her project.

"I was excited and nervous," she said, "because I was more interested in helping my sister with her project."

Madison remembers seeing her sister, Delaney, 12, jumping up and down in the stands when she won. Her family all went to the show to support her from the stands.

Wesley's whole family was there, too, he said, including his younger sister, Lexy, 13, who is following in his footsteps. He said he couldn't have won without her help raising the chickens.

They took turns feeding them and cleaning out their pens.

"It was really exciting," he said. "The most exciting part was knowing that we did that well."

This was Wesley's second reserve champion win at the Austin show. He's glad for the win, even though it wasn't grand champion.

"Sometimes, reserve is better because you get to keep showing year after year," he said.

Once a student wins grand champion, he or she cannot show in that animal show again.

So when the livestock show comes around, Leopold is ready to help where he can. He said he helps with picking out the birds and then devising a feeding schedule that will earn them a grand or reserve after judging.

"I do it all on a volunteer basis," he said. "I've always been involved as a volunteer to help the kids and see the kids succeed at a major show."



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