Monte Munford once considered himself to be bashful and quiet. To those who know Monte or have recently met him, such as this writer, the response would likely be, "You've got to be kidding."
Munford considers an event, The Farmers' Museum Junior Livestock Show, set to mark its 65th anniversary starting this Sunday, to be one thing that helped bring him out of his quiet young shell as he grew up in Cooperstown.
Stephen C. Clark started the Junior Livestock Show in 1947. His father, F. Ambrose Clark, was a sportsman and agricultural enthusiast. One of the farms in the Clark family, the Iroquois Farm, on county Route 33 south of Cooperstown, is where today's Livestock Show is held. Munford knows this farm well, because he grew up on it between 1938-58.
When young Monte got started with the show, as a member of 4-H, the shows took place at what was the recently opened Farmers' Museum. Back then it was a one-day show, held where the Empire State Carousel is today.
Meg Preston, current Junior Livestock show coordinator, said that the three-day event now draws about 270 to 300 youngsters, ages 8-18, from a nine-county region. The youths bring a total of 700 farm animals, as some show different species. The Farmers' Museum runs the show with help from Cornell Cooperative Extension offices in nearly each county.
The show is open to spectators, and opens Sunday with a chicken barbecue and ice cream social at night, followed by a day of youngsters showing off their animals, and then the Parade of Champions on Tuesday. Thirty-two awards are given out at the closing.
"It's a family atmosphere," Preston said of those not competing in the show. "They bring the kids to see the animals, and can get up close and pet them. It's better than a county fair, because this is all that's there, the animals and the kids and no other distractions."
There were no cutting corners for Monte Munford, when it came to showing his Shropshire sheep in the show, back in the late 1940s and well into the '50s. He had some excellent mentoring from his father and grandfather, who had also raised sheep on the Iroquois Farm. The family lived on the farm after F. Ambrose Clark hired Joseph Munford in 1910 and brought him to the United States from England, to run the sheep farm. As Monte tells the story, his grandfather Joseph arrived in Boston and walked all the way to Cooperstown, entirely along railroad tracks.
"I was supposed to be the 17th generation of shepherds," Monte said recently, "but I decided to become a school teacher, instead." Raising and then showing sheep at the Junior Livestock Show boosted his confidence. Monte was also involved with 4-H for several years, and was master of the Juvenile Grange at Whig Corners.
Munford's first show was 1947, and he stayed with it, winning the Farmers' Museum Dairy Cup -- with a Shropshire sheep -- in 1955 and 1957. Since that time, additional cups have been added for specific livestock.
"I grew up outside of town and there weren't many families close by, and I was a very quiet person in school, but by the time I got to college, I became class president in 1962." Munford's college was then known as Oneonta State Teachers College.
Munford went into teaching, doing so for several years in the upper elementary grades in Patchogue. He is now retired in North Carolina.
Just as Munford's name appears twice on the Dairy Cup, this and the other championship cups serve now as engraved family trees. The Talbot family of Morris, for example, has names of different family members who won five times from the 1940s through the '70s.
The Junior Livestock Show will be held at the Iroquois Farm from Sunday through Tuesday, July 10. Visit www.farmersmuseum.org for times and details.
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City Historian Mark Simonson's column appears twice weekly. On Saturdays, his column focuses on the area during the Depression and before. His Monday columns address local history after the Depression. If you have feedback or ideas about the column, write to him at The Daily Star, or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. His website is www.oneontahistorian.com. His columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/marksimonson.