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Family cries foul at fair disqualification
FFA girl pic1
Downey High FFA member Victoria McPherson shows off her sheep one last time before being sold at a private auction hosted by her parents. - photo by NANCY ANGEL / The Journal

What should have been an exciting and unforgettable experience for first time FFA exhibitor Victoria McPherson, instead, turned into a heartbreaking incident that left her and her family yearning for answers.  McPherson and her sheep “Lambert” were dismissed from the Stanislaus County Fair Advance Showing last week after the fair’s veterinarian disqualified the animal.

“On Monday morning we took our sheep Lambert to the fair for weigh in,” said McPherson.  “One of the fair officials approached me and asked me what was wrong with Lambert’s eye.  I explained to him that his eye had a rash due to Lambert rubbing his face against the fence.”

After being cleared by the fair officials, the contestants received an impromptu visit from the fair’s vet.

“At about 2:30 we had a vet check that we were not aware of.  The vet came up to me and Lambert and told me that I was disqualified from the competition because Lambert had ringworm on his eye. He told me that I had to leave immediately,” said McPherson. 

Puzzled and with many questions unanswered, McPherson and her parents went to the Superintendent of Livestock John Mendes.

“Mendes told us that if I was able to get a second opinion from another vet and dismiss the ringworm accusation, he will let me in back in the fair,” said McPherson.

Later that afternoon McPherson and her parents took Lambert and got the second opinion Superintendent Mendes was asking for.

“The vet did a black eye examination, microscope slides and many other tests to determine the cause of Lambert’s rash.   They were unable to find ringworm on my animal’s eye and treated the eye as a case of dermatitis.  We were all relieved at the news, and were excited to take Lambert back into the fair,” said McPherson. 

Her hopes to re enter Lambert back into the competition were quickly crushed, however, when she found out that same night her animal was not allowed back into the fair.

“I was crushed.  I raised Lambert since he was a baby lamb.  I spent countless hours at the farm making sure he was fed and well equipped to participate in the fair.  Not to mention, this was my first year participating.  I am extremely disappointed at the fair’s decision,” said McPherson.

Despite the efforts of McPherson and family members to re enter Lambert, fair officials stood behind the fair’s vet disqualified them from the competition.

“What disappoints me the most is that they went back on their word,” said McPherson’s mother Jennifer Carter.  “We wasted our time and money to get the second opinion that they specifically asked from us,” she said.

Fair spokesperson Adrenna Alkhas said she empathizes with McPherson’s disqualification but supported the fair official’s decision regarding the safety of other animals.

“It is unfortunate that this happened to her,” said Alkhas.  “However, the reason we have vets on our premises is to make sure the animals are healthy and ready for competition.  We cannot take the chance of having an animal being ill and jeopardizing the well being of others,” she said.

Alkhas also added that if the fair made an exception for McPherson and her animal, they would be forced to make exceptions for everyone.

Despite the unfortunate series of events, McPherson’s parents decided to turn a negative incident into a positive experience when they hosted a private auction for Lambert Sunday morning.

“We are all so proud of Victoria and the efforts she put,” said Victoria’s FFA advisor Mike Schilperoort.  “Although I do not agree with her being disqualified, I respect the vet’s decision.  If there is one thing that I’ve learned with FFA is that there is no guarantee when you are dealing with livestock.  There are always things going wrong when you are working with animals.” 

When contacted, Superintendent Mendes refused to comment about the incident.

“This bad experience is not going to slow me down,” said McPherson.  “I will be back next year prepared and stronger than ever.”