by Noah Benedict
The maroon jacket was something I had always dreamed of being able to wear. And the people wearing those jackets were people who had always been my role models. At this year’s Junior National Hereford Expo those feelings hit me a little differently — I had decided to run for the National Junior Hereford Association (NJHA) board of directors. Boy, was I happy I made that decision.
Throughout the week, I got to meet so many new faces, see the NJHA from behind-the-scenes and build relationships that will last a lifetime. As a candidate, I got to help put on contests, participate in meetings, work the showring and campaign with all the voting delegates. I enjoyed the latter of that list the most because it really didn’t feel like a campaign at all. I truly enjoyed meeting so many new people and connecting with them on a more personal level. From Sunday through Thursday I carried out those tasks and gave a couple speeches along the way.
No one can really describe what that Thursday night awards ceremony feels like for a candidate, or at least I can’t. I think I was unique in the sense that I was extremely calm before it all started. I told myself there was nothing I could do at that point. The votes had been placed, so all I had to do was wait to find out. After the first retiring board member, Bailey Jones, gave her speech she handed her jacket off to Miss Bailey Morrell. Don’t get me wrong, I was super happy for Bailey because she deserves to wear maroon, but in that moment the butterflies flew into the pit of my stomach. It was like someone punched them into me. I tried to play off my nerves but found my knees beginning to shake. I couldn’t help but look around nervously.
My family and I had wondered who would hand off Mr. Nathan Hopkins’ jacket and were surprised to see it was my cousin, Rylee Barber. She began heading down the other side of the gate dividing the rings. This was peak butterfly moment. I figured if I didn’t get that jacket, I wasn’t getting one. Rylee made her way around the gate and pretty much headed straight toward me. That gut-punch of butterflies left as quickly as it came and joy and gratitude filled me instead.
Having Rylee hand me the maroon jacket surrounded by my family and friends, and giving me the opportunity to serve an association I love, man was that a great feeling. From beginning to end, those are feelings I can’t quite put into words. It meant the world to me to put the jacket on and hug my parents and grandparents, who all inspired me to be active in this phenomenal industry. I have loved the NJHA since the beginning because of the amazing people, values and cattle involved, and look forward to seeing where this next great opportunity takes me.