1,600 competitors anticipated at 66th WC Aggies Judging Contest


The 66th edition of the Wilmington College Aggies’ annual Harold Thirey Memorial Judging Contest promises to continue the tradition of offering a top-quality judging experience for high school students engaged in 4-H, vocational agriculture and Future Farmers of America.

Last year, the WC student-run event — billed as among the first in the nation each year and the largest east of the Mississippi — attracted a record 1,608 participants from Ohio and three neighboring states. They came to hone their skills in agronomy and judging equine, dairy and general livestock.

This year’s competition is March 6 and again will be held at the Champion Expo Center, 4122 Laybourne Road, Springfield, with judging from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

The Aggies’ Judging Contest is Wilmington College’s largest student-run event and is named in memory of Harold Thirey, a long-time agriculture professor and Aggies’ adviser who died unexpectedly in 2021.

Aggies President Justin Beckner is a senior from Somerville, OH, with dual majors in agricultural business and agriscience education (grades 4-12). He has been impressed with the “longstanding tradition” of the Judging Contest, which he noted connects him and the other Aggies of 2024 to WC alumni going back to the 1950s. He is proud the Aggies are so nimble and dedicated each year that returning students step up and take on leadership roles in staging the signature hands-on learning event.

The Judging Contest impressed him as a high school student and went a long way — complemented by encouragement from his aunt, 2002 graduate Kari Beckner Roberts — to attend Wilmington College.

“What attracted me is it’s a very impressive competition with quality livestock, but the big draw was it’s put on by college students,” he said. “A group of 19 to 22-year-olds putting on this contest for 1,600 competitors!”

Indeed, students run the show. They secure the animals, organize the logistics and get the word out to Ohio and neighboring states’ schools, 4-H groups, FFA members and vocational agriculture classes. The contest represents a real-life application and a hands-on learning experience for both the high school students and WC’s agriculture students who stage the event. Participants use those judging skills fine-tuned at WC’s contest at upcoming county and state fairs and other judging competitions.

Record numbers of participants have been set each year since the pandemic. Beckner expects another large group of contestants this year. “There’s a little bit of pressure to break the record, but most important is to make sure the students are served to the best of our ability.”

Agriculture constitutes the largest academic area at Wilmington College. WC’s Bachelor of Science in Agriculture degree program features hands-on learning experience on the College Farm and other learning laboratory sites outside the classroom. The agriculture program features concentrations in agricultural business, agronomy, animal science, equine business management, agricultural communications, agricultural education and a new concentration in resource conservation & regenerative agriculture. WC also offers an ag-related major concentration in food policy and agriculture advocacy housed under political science. Related academic minors include agriculture, equine studies and sustainability.

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