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updated: 8/26/2014 8:32 AM

Illinois family loves showing goats

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  • A.J. Hepner, 10, of Colfax,  watches for directions from a judge while showing a pygmy goat at the McLean County Fair in Bloomington.

      A.J. Hepner, 10, of Colfax, watches for directions from a judge while showing a pygmy goat at the McLean County Fair in Bloomington.
    AP Photo/The Pantagraph, Steve Smedley

 
By MARIA NAGLE
The (Bloomington) Pantagraph

BLOOMINGTON -- A hundred kids later, Carol and Eric Hepner still love each other and the goats that brought them together.

Carol was 13 and Eric was 11 when they met while showing goats. They became friends, then fell in love and married after college.

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"I actually started judging the pygmy goats at the McLean County Fair when I was 16 years old. Of course, he and I had already met at a goat show a few years before that.

"He showed goats with his family ... and then now with me and our kids," said Carol Hepner, who lives in Colfax with her family. "I think if it wasn't for me, he wouldn't do it any more, but he loves us, so he does what we love."

Her passion for goats dates to childhood.

"I just fell in love with goats. I was a kid, 8 or 9 years old," she said. "They're little. They're cute. It's just kind of been a passion of mine ever since."

Twenty-six years later, the Hepners were at the McLean County Fair with their four children showing -- what else? -- more goats.

She told the goat tale as she helped her two oldest sons, A.J., 10, and Zach, 11, get their pygmy goats to and from the judging ring during competition Friday.

The boys, each showing about a dozen goats, won a plethora of ribbons, including more than eight first-place and two champion honors. The show was a composite of dairy and meat breeds and the pygmy pet breed.

"I should have saw it coming," said A.J., after winning his first championship ribbon for the day, thanks to a pygmy wether named Ace of Spades. "Most of the judges say he's a really nice goat and he gets a really good score. Only me or my family can show him because he doesn't like other people to show him."

A.J. likes showing goats.

"What I like is how much you can learn from it and how much fun it is just getting out there and showing your goat and hearing what the judge has to say," he said.

Hannah, 3, and J.D., 5, are too young to participate in 4-H competitions, so they show at open shows, their mother said.

Carol Hepner shows goats on a national level and is a national certified judge of goats at fairs and open shows.

"So I travel all over the country, so if they choose to do it with me, that's fine. Otherwise, they can choose to do whatever they want."

All of the children have gone to fairs since they were, uh, kids themselves.

"Zach was at his first goat show when he was four weeks old and Hannah was at her first goat show at two weeks and A.J. was almost born at a goat show," Carol Hepner said.

"I left a goat show to go into labor with him and two days later he was born. So they've been kind of born into it."

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