For thousands of Oklahomans, spring break in Oklahoma is better known as Oklahoma Youth Expo the “World’s Largest Junior Livestock Show.”
In March 2013, Destinee (Johnson)Harrison, exhibited both 2013 Grand Champion Market Wether Lamb and Grand Champion Market Wether Goat, resulting in Harrison being the first exhibitor in OYE history to have grand champion in two species during the same year.
“Showing was something I did with my dad and that originally drew me into it,” said Destinee Harrison, former Tipton FFA livestock exhibitor. “Once I became an avid, showman my passion grew more and more as time went on. I grew attached to the rush and thrill of competing, just as any athlete would.”
Harrison said she became “hooked” on showing sheep when she showed a sheep at the Tillman County Livestock Show. Winning showmanship at the Tipton Free Fair during her first year showing sheep was when she truly realized she had a talent for showing sheep, she said.
Harrison was constantly surrounded with endless love and support from her family throughout her show career, said Harrison.
“My family was so into every aspect of my showing,” Harrison said “My father was always super hard on me and very critical of every little detail. We never missed a feeding or a work day. We worked until it was right, and it didn’t matter if it took 10 minutes or three hours.”
Her mother, Angie Johnson, was more laid back and would do what was needed to make sure she got the work done, Harrison said. Unlike her father, Chris Johnson, Harrison’s mother was content with taking “a night off” every now and then, Harrison added.
“My grandparents were always there to support me no matter what,” Harrison said. “While grandpa was still alive, they never missed a show.”
She also received help from her uncle, Brian Johnson, for picking out the best lambs for the year, Harrison said. Johnson would also convince Harrison’s father to purchase “a couple more sheep than we had originally decided on,” she said.
While her show life was mostly handled by her dad, her educators played a vital role to her success, Harrison said.
, “We only bought a goat in the first place because Destinee was getting wore out in the sheep barn,” Aaron Henson, Tillman County, Oklahoma Cooperative Service Extension Educator said. “I bought the goat because Destinee wanted one, and it wasn’t until a month or so later that her dad, Chris, paid me back.”
Harrison had shown sheep for the majority of her career and was starting to lose her passion and drive to win at age 16, Henson said.
“Destinee and I worked out a deal with her dad that Destinee had to work all of her sheep before she could work with the goat,” Henson said. “Chris didn’t want her to have a goat period because he didn’t want to take her time and focus away from the sheep in the barn.”
Harrison’s goat was subject to some experimenting, Henson said.
“I personally did a great deal of experimenting with Destinee’s goat,” Henson said. I worked with a chemist on campus at OSU to understand and perfect the drench mixture we use on our goats now.”
On show day, Destinee’s Hampshire market wether lamb and Division Three market wether goat were scheduled to enter their respected show rings at the same time.
“Chris, Destinee and I all agreed that her goat had a better chance of winning, so we had someone else in line to show her lamb,” he said. “After she won her goat class, she sprinted across the barn and down the ramp just in time to show her sheep.”
Harrison won her lamb class, then hurried she back to show her goat for Division Three champion.
Being an extension educator, Henson had numerous other exhibitors to help and was not able to watch Harrison show her goat for division champion.
“I remember I was on my knees fitting a goat for the first class of Division Four,” Henson said. “I heard the judge start talking the division, so I stopped what I was doing and put down my clippers and combs to listen. I fell flat on my back in the middle of the aisle when the announcer said Destinee had won the division.”
Shortly after Harrison won Division Three with her goat, she also won champion Hampshire with her lamb.
“We didn’t think her lamb had a chance of winning his breed either,” Henson said. “He was too small, not ideal for the situation.”
Winning OYE was “never a thought throughout the year at all,” especially not in the initial purchase of each animal, Henson said.
It was not until listening to the judge “talk” the rest of the goats they remotely thought they might have a chance at winning grand champion, Henson said.
“A few hours before grand drive, we sent everyone away, and Chris and I sat on the show box with the goat and lamb in the stall behind us,” Henson said. “That’s when her dad said ‘I think we have a chance at winning one of these.’ I looked at him and said ‘Big boy, I think we do.’”
They never once discussed whether they thought the goat or the lamb would claim the title, Henson said.
“We never talked about which one we thought would win because it was not our day to decide,” said Chris Johnson, Harrison’s father. “We have always tried to pick the good ones, we never anticipated we picked the best ones.”
Playing an important role in such a historical OYE event has not changed his thought process or approach to shows, Henson said.
“You can’t control one person’s opinion on that day,” he said. “The hardest time to show is in your class. I always tell my kids, ‘Until we win our class, we can’t win our division, and if we win our division, then we have a chance to win grand.’”
Harrison’s historical achievement did not go unnoticed, especially by those directly involved with OYE. The following year Tyler Norvell, executive director of OYE, presented Harrison and her family with a large, framed print of the backdrop image that was taken immediately after the grand drive, containing her award-winning lamb and goat along with her family and friends, to express his congratulations.
“I have always believed you need to have strong family support to accomplish the things we did, I say ‘we’ because I was never alone in my success,” Harrison said.