CENTRAL CITY — The last day of the Linn County Fair is typically when many 4-H members receive payback for the months of hard work they’ve invested into raising and nurturing their animals.
But on Monday, at the annual 4-H Livestock Auction, it was the Fair Board that reaped the benefits, thanks to the generosity of a 16-year-old from Springville.
JaLea Horning, a junior at Linn-Mar High School and a member of the Prairie Union Wildcats 4-H Club, sold her 1,506-pound, reserve grand champion steer named “Big Boy” for $2,000.
Then, she turned around and donated the money back to the Fair Board for use in upgrading the cattle barn, including electrical improvements.
“Ever since my sister had been young and shown, I know there had been many problems,” Horning said. “My parents grew up in these cattle barns, so anything we can do for them is great.
“I talked to my dad before, and he’s like ‘That much money isn’t going to affect us. If that’s what you wanted to do out of the goodness of your heart, that’s fine.’ ”
Fair officials said they were pleased, but not shocked by the gift.
“It’s common with our 4-Hers in Linn County,” said Heidi Steffen, marketing manager for the fair. She said another member donated proceeds from the sale of a lamb a couple years ago.
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“Part of it is they’ve seen and appreciated what the fair has done for them. They have a passion for it.”
Horning, the daughter of Neal and Jennifer Horning, said she spoke with other families in the cattle barn this year about how to raise funds for improvements. She said the electrical outlets on the north side of the barn often stopped working, which meant much-needed cooling fans could not be used to properly cool down animals.
“I felt it was time somebody should step up,” she said, adding she has been showing animals at the Linn County Fair the last eight years and has been able to raise enough money to pay for future projects and build her savings.
Kate Moore, Linn County youth coordinator for Iowa State University Extension, said Horning’s steer was purchased by the Linn County Co-op. She said other fundraising efforts brought the total raised for barn improvements to around $12,000.
“There’s a lot of buzz and a lot of excitement,” Moore said. “The kids are super excited about it. It’s really cool that a 4-Her was able to come up with this awesome idea to donate back to the fair.
“But that’s just the kind of person JaLea is. She’s pretty selfless.”