Oh, the joys of packing for a cattle show. Bags, tubs and more bags. And many panic moments, with the fear of forgetting an essential.
Oh, the joys of packing for a cattle show. Bags, tubs and more bags. And many panic moments, with the fear of forgetting an essential.

As I type, our little family is loaded into the family truck and trailer, with our Hereford heifer, Velma, and steer, Lightning, in tow. Destination: the 2014 Illinois Junior Hereford Preview Show in Minden, Ill.

I won’t lie. The moment I sunk into the passenger seat, I breathed a sigh of relief.

We. Were. Packed. And. Loaded.


Of course, the stress of show preparations will hit soon. But, oh, how I’m relish the few hours of satisfaction of knowing one obstacle was achieved.

Just last night, our house was a ridiculous disaster.

Piles were scattered throughout the house – no one was to touch them. And the family heeded the warnings, because they know not to mess with mommy in her show-packing mode.

Show clothes… show boots… wash rack clothes… speech attire… oh, yes! The speech poster. We can’t forget the speech poster. Allergy medicines, children’s Tylenol®, wet wipes. All the gadgets and gizmos our boys require.

What am I forgetting? Oh, goodness. I’m surely forgetting something.

As I struggled through this haze, I sought out affirmation from show-mom friends I respect across the country. I’m not really the only crazy one, am I? And got a bit of advice for how they prepare for events, too. Goodness, they’re smart. And they’ve got their act together.

Susan Rhode, Gower, Mo.

Wife of Jeff; and mom of Isaac, 11, and Gavin, 8.

Susan and Jeff were extremely involved in the National Junior Polled Hereford Association and the National Junior Angus Association, respectively, as youth. Now, they’ve begun to pass the tradition on to their boys.

“Before every show, I make sure that there is a package of wet wipes, a bottle of ibuprofen, a black Sharpie® marker and a pair of scissors in the show box before we leave for every show, and I almost always end up using them.  

My boys are hungry all the time, so we need a good supply of snacks on hand that they can have at any time of day. Pringles, Rice Krispie treats and Little Debbie cakes top the list of our show box snacks, and I hate to admit that they serve as breakfast on many early show mornings. 

When it comes to packing suitcases, I couldn't do it without a list and a schedule of activities going on at the show. This process is quick and easy for smaller one-day shows, and longer and more complex for the 11-day trip we'll take to the Junior National Hereford Expo later this summer. 

I always pack swimsuits for overnight shows, even if I know we'll barely have time to hit the pool at the hotel. Sometimes the promise of a 30-minute dip in the pool is enough to get my kids motivated to get stalls made and equipment put away after tie-out. 

Things I don't leave home without:

  • Camera – check that battery is charged and there's an SD card in it;
  • Cell phone charger cords – we keep one in the show box at all times and pack the rest in a suitcase to use at hotel;
  • Video games – as much as I hate them, they're a necessary evil to keep kids entertained during long days in the barn;
  • A big golf umbrella – just in case;
  • Extra socks and shoes for everyone;
  • A hoodie or jacket for both kids, no matter how hot it is outside. The barns can get cold;
  • A reserve supply of snacks – sometimes they come in handy on the drive home;
  • Extra drinks to restock coolers;
  • A football; and
  • Something special just for me – a magazine, a special snack, a new pack of gum or bag of candy.

Kristi Kretzmeier, Fowler, Ind.
Wife of John; and mom of Kenzie, 17, Clay, 14, and Carson, 11.

The Kretzmeiers exhibit Shorthorns across the country and have claimed the championship banner at many shows, including the North American International Livestock Exposition in Louisville, Ky. They also are strong in the showpig circuit.

“A must for every show is a well-packed drink cooler and a basic first-aid kit. Waters, Gatorade®, and iced tea seem to be the top picks for my family. I generally take a snack bag and a small cooler filled with healthy snack options. 

It seems like we can always purchase a burger and chips, but we usually can’t get a healthy snack from food vendors. Sometimes I take our whole lunch, but I have found out over the years that we don’t eat a lot when it gets hot, and all too often the food for purchase is more enticing than what I have packed, so the kids don’t want to eat my lunch. As long as we have a few munchies and drinks nearby, we get along well.

As for suitcase packing, we all do our own. I often go through Carson’s to be sure that she has enough decent jeans that will fit over her boots. 

The most often forgotten item seems to be the belt, so I have gotten into the habit to always ask that each kid has their belt and boots. As the girls get older, the whole outfit gets more complicated. It’s sometimes best for mom to just not voice her opinion and let them figure it out for themselves. 

For the shows that last all week, the family likes it when I take along a laundry bag to collect the dirty clothes – then their suitcase is easier to keep organized. 

My best advice is to be organized. The day ahead, put all the snacks into a bag, cut up and bag the fruits and veggies refrigerate together, and chill all the drinks so the ice doesn’t melt as quickly. 

Our mornings seem to fly by, so the more I can do the day ahead, the better off we all are on show day.”

Becky Allan, Schulenburg, Texas

Wife of Dave; and mom of Tyler, 14, Mason, 11, and Landry, 2.
The Allans have claimed numerous awards from coast to coast, including many Texas Majors.

“Well, we all know what its like to get ready for a cattle show – bliss. Not! Actually, it’s total chaos, and no different at the Allan household! I'm usually trying to get the shophereford.com booth stuff together, so I'm lucky if the boys even have underwear!

I would definitely recommend packing twice as much underwear and socks as you think you’ll need. There must be some kind of sock and underwear monster that eats them while we are at a show, because it always seems we run out.  

We also always bring a football (I guess that’s a necessity when you are a mother of boys).  

As far as cooking is concerned, I love the idea of everybody cooking together at shows, and it always helps when you are in Texas and you have great cooks in the group such as the Nolans, Wests, Warnkens, Chaffins!  

Wait until you get to your destination to buy the groceries. For some reason, that is the least important thing on my husband’s list to squeeze into the trailer.  

I do recommend cooking ahead of time and freezing before you get there, though. Time seems to run out when you are there, and it’s much easier if the food is already prepared.

You can just throw it all into a crockpot liner, then into the crockpot for no mess!

And last but not least, be prepared for a Target or Walmart run for all the things you’ve forgotten. Because it will always happen!” 

Debbie Bacon, Siloam Springs, Ark.

Wife of Craig, mom of Cassie, 27, Justin, 23, and Amanda, 20.

The Bacon family has been involved in the Hereford industry for years, with Justin having served on the National Junior Hereford Association (NJHA) board of directors; and Amanda, a past National Hereford Queen, now serving on the same board.

“One of the biggest jobs for a show mom, in my mind, is having plenty of clothes to get through the week, and then getting them packed for the trip.

My children learned to pack at an early age, but until they were preteens, I supervised closely.

Always pack a laundry bag to keep those dirty clothes from going back into the suitcase.

Heavy trash bags work just as well for dirty clothes but are always necessary, too, keeping suitcases clean and dry in the event of rain. It never fails: one rain shower hits on the way to a show and the suitcases are... in the truck bed!

For our trips to junior nationals, I learned it was well worth having all the jeans professionally starched. Then they were packed in a plastic tub to travel to the show.”

Beth Dorsey, Dorsey, Ill.

Wife of Brad; mom of Drew, 19, Claire, 9, and Jemma, 3.

Beth and Brad’s families have been involved in the Simmental and Limousin industries for generations. Now, their children actively show Simmentals across the country.

“Many ‘essentials’ are required in our show box for cattle shows:

  • Every show gets its own school folder. Inside, we keep all show information. On the outside, we write deadlines;
  • Old book bags – buy quality, and they will last! Our kids fill their own, and their items stay contained;
  • Stain stick – for when you can’t get laundry done for a while;
  • Diaper rash cream – for rope burn;
  • Combs – to help the kids get rid of their ‘bed head’;
  • Extra socks – we hate wet feet;
  • Pepto-Bismol®;
  • Advil®;
  • Chewing gum;
  • Tweezers;
  • Nail clippers;
  • Hand lotion;
  • Saline spray;
  • Eye drops; and
  • First-aid kit.