TULARE, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) – The Youth Ag Expo kicked off on Thursday in Tulare, and hundreds of kids showcased their animals for a chance to win some big scholarships. 

This weekend over 500 kids are coming together from across California to participate in the fourth annual California Youth Ag Expo.

The event is aimed at helping kids and encouraging them to stick around after they graduate from high school.

“Keep these young talented people who understand the diversity of California and that understand the dynamics of California agriculture here because our ag companies in California are stressed to find labor,” said Jake Parnell who is the President of the Board.

But it’s not just a livestock show, these kids also competed in areas in public speaking and job interview skills, along with Ag mechanics. 

The Youth Ag Expo started during covid after all of the county fairs were shut down.

For Carly Wheeler who has grown up showcasing animals her entire life, it’s a weekend full of emotion.

This weekend was Wheeler’s last California before she leaves for college. 

“I’m a little nervous going into it but also excited and there’s so much more than winning any banner at the end of the day because these are my best friends that I’m doing this with and I’m so lucky to be around them and be a part of this industry,” said Wheeler.

Along with all the excitement at events like this, comes a lot of sacrifice.

”It is a lot of work, a lot of hours,” said Dotty Lefty who is an exhibitor. “I spend about three hours out at the barn each night plus morning feedings and extra time in the evenings.”

Lefty is showcasing six sheep and must make sure that they are washed and re-wrapped each day. 

“Each sheep has a tube blanket which is a tight blanket then an over blanket which is a loser blanket, and then four leg wraps on each leg to keep their leg wool nice and clean and pretty,” said Lefty.

But it all pays off in the end. For these kids it’s not just about winning, it’s much deeper than that. 

“The people and the experiences that we make through this industry are second to none,” said Lefty. “And just through showing I’ve already met so many people and lined up so many opportunities for my future through different internships and other opportunities that you can’t get anywhere else.”

This weekend about 50 scholarships will be awarded totaling about $150,000. 

And next year organizers hope to be able to offer a full-ride scholarship to a four-year university. 

If you would like to participate in next year’s Youth Ag Expo or if you would like information on how you can become a sponsor you can visit click here.