Jace Hopkins was surprised Wednesday when Douglas County Fair Director Harold Phillips called him to the stage in the Don Lilja Pavilion.
Hopkins, 17, thought: “What did I do wrong?”
Nothing. He was about to be recognized for doing right.
The Oregon Fairs Association presented Hopkins with the Youth Fair Supporter Award to honor his hard work and contributions to the community.
Hopkins, a soon-to-be Glide High School senior, raised a steer named Beef Bucks that was raffled at last year’s fair to raise money for a 4-H scholarship and youth camp. This was the second straight year Hopkins raised a steer for the 4-H fundraiser.
“This is a man who went above and beyond,” Phillips said. “It was something he didn’t need to do or have to do.”
Phillips picked up the award in January at an OFA conference, but kept it a secret until Wednesday.
“I wanted him to be recognized in front of his peers,” Phillips said.
Elkton 4-H leader Jon Bradly, who died earlier this year, approached Hopkins two years ago about volunteering to raise a show steer for 4-H.
Hopkins said he did it the first year because he was looking for a project.
When he was entrusted with Beef Bucks’ welfare in January 2013, Hopkins was already caring for a show steer and heifer.
Hopkins estimated he spent one to two hours a day caring for the animals during the school year.
“You know, I could care less about how hard the work was; it was fun to do it,” Hopkins said.
He had to halter break the steer and haul it to a livestock scale once a month.
Tracking the steer’s weight was critical for the fundraiser. Hopkins posted the steer’s weights from January through June at the fair. The raffle ticket buyer who was closest to guessing the steer’s weight won the beef.
Beef Bucks weighed in at 1,290 pounds. Hopkins estimated the raffle raised more than $2,000.
If Hopkins had auctioned Beef Bucks, he might have gotten more than $3,500 for him.
“We didn’t really want to ask one person to spend that kind of that money,” Hopkins said. “The goal was to get the entire community involved.”
Hopkins has been involved in 4-H and FFA projects for nearly 10 years.
His father, Jon, and mother, Andria, were at the fairgrounds Wednesday.
“He’s a good kid,” Andria Hopkins said. “He loves ranching.”
Jace Hopkins said he hopes to settle in Douglas County after college and serving a two-year mission with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
He said the relationships he’s built with fairgoers will keep him coming back. He hopes to return one day with animals from his own plot of Douglas County land.
“Fair also gives you the opportunity to create friends from other areas. You do create a family bond,” Hopkins said. “At fair, you know you can trust people.”
• Reporter Megan Campbell can be reached at 541-957-4221 or firstname.lastname@example.org.