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Poultry Royalty crowned at state fair

By Janet Kubat Willette
jkubat@agrinews.com

Date Modified: 09/11/2013 10:21 AM

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FALCON HEIGHTS, Minn. — Alex Oelke and Kristina Allen are the 2013 Poultry Prince and Princess.

Oelke, 17, of Otsego representing Sherburne County, and Allen, 18, of Rochester in Olmsted County, were crowned Aug. 25 at the Minnesota State Fair.

The Poultry Prince and Princess program is a scholarship program of Minnesota 4-H and Gold'n Plump. It recognizes the knowledge, leadership and skills of youth in the state's poultry industry.

The program is in its fourth year.

Allen said when she earned her first state fair trip there wasn't a poultry prince or princess. At the fair, she and a poultry buddy talked about how wonderful the Princess Kay program is and how nice it would be to have a similar program for poultry.

The Poultry Prince and Princess program debuted the next year.

"I'm very glad it happened for me this year," said Allen, a home-schooled senior who is taking classes at Rochester Community and Technical College through the post-secondary education option program. She plans to continue her education and become a veterinarian.

It was Oelke's second year of participating in the contest; last year he was a runner-up to August Otto, who crowned him this year's Poultry Prince.

Oelke is enrolled at Rogers High School, but he also is in the post-secondary education option program. He attends Anoka-Ramsey Community College and plans to transfer to an engineering school after graduation. He hopes to become a poultry judge.

Poultry Prince and Princess contestants must participate in poultry showmanship, a chicken barbecue contest and a live question-and-answer round at the fair. The also take a written quiz with multiple choice and essay questions. They have the option of participating in a judging contest.

Oelke has been in 4-H for eight years. Woodworking, photography and poultry were his first three projects, and he's stuck with all three.

He's shown turkeys, pheasants and chickens.

He traces his interest in poultry back to his kindergarten classroom. The classroom hatched chicks and they were offered to families at the end of the school year. His family took a couple.

Oelke has shown a variety of chicken breeds, including Polish, known for its tuft of feathers; Silky, known for its softness, and Phoenix, whose tails can grow up to 30 feet.

Oelke enjoys crossbreeding poultry and also breeding hens and roosters to make a better offspring. In 21 days, he's able to see the results of his work.

His favorite crossbred thus far is the result of pairing a Black Java rooster with a Buff Orpington hen. The pairing resulted in a beautiful golden-laced black bird.

The poultry project is more accessible than other livestock.

"It's a great starting place," he said.

Allen agreed, saying that poultry is a wonderful area because anyone can be in the poultry project. It's not only is it open to all, it also has enough levels to challenge seasoned 4-H'ers. There's always something more to do with the poultry project, she said.

Allen joined 4-H as a Cloverbud in first or second grade.

"I joined 4-H because my mom was in 4-H when she was a kid," Allen said. Her mother enjoyed 4-H and thought her daughter would as well. Her mother was right.

"I loved it," Allen said.

She's a member of the New Haven Sodbusters 4-H club and she got involved with the poultry project because it was the one type of livestock she could have in town.

Her family has three chickens in the backyard. Bertha, a White Rock, is hers. She lays eggs with a rich chocolate brown shell.

Her brother has Owl, an Ameraucana that lays green eggs, and the family bird is Hildegard, a Gold Star that lays brown eggs.

Allen took ducks — Larry and Bob — to the fair this year because she wanted to show something different.

Allen said they buy their birds and keep them on farms as they can't keep them at their home.

Allen was too young to show in 4-H her first year so she showed in open class. She has shown poultry since.

"It's the highlight of my fair," Allen said.

During their yearlong reign, the duo will make media appearances. Their first official event was participating in the state fair parade.

Allen would also like to visit elementary schools, bringing in her birds and talking to students about poultry.

The students both receive $1,000 academic scholarships.