La PORTE — During his last year of eligibility at the fair, Wanatah's Jaye Mitzner had a single goal in mind — "go out with a bang."
The 18-year-old has spent the past several months preparing to achieve that goal, staying up some nights until 1 or 2 a.m. to ensure his animals were in peak condition for the competition. Along the way, he, his sister and his neighbors, who helped him care for the creatures, had their fair share of arguments, laughs and jokes.
This week, Mitzner has witnessed the result of those long, demanding days on the family farm.
During Wednesday's 2019 La Porte County Fair Swine Show, the Wanatah teen walked away with three major titles under his belt, including the Grand Champion award for his 285-pound crossbred gilt. Mitzner also took home the Reserve Champion trophy for his 230-pound crossbred barrow and the third-place award for his 245-pound Landrace swine.
"I knew we would have a good day, but not this good," Mitzner said, moments after the conclusion of Wednesday's show. "We tried as hard we could, and we accomplished what we needed to do."
The trio of titles are on top of the other distinctions the Cass Merrymakers 4-H club member has racked up during this year's fair, which began on Sunday and runs through Saturday. On Monday, Mitzner fielded the grand market lamb and punched his ticket to Thursday's Supreme Champion Showman Contest.
Mitzner, who graduated from LaCrosse High School this past spring, is on his last year of eligibility with 4-H, having been a member for the past 10 years. He was inspired to join the club by his older sister, Janelle, a former Supreme Showman and fair queen who celebrated her brother's victory alongside the rest of the Mitzner clan on Wednesday.
"She's always been the one to push me the hardest," he said. "We've learned a lot together. I've even taught her some things over the past few years. It's been fun having her out here this year."
While walking away from 4-H — something he described as his "life and passion" — will be tough, Mitzner has relished the opportunity to serve as a role model for younger members, sharing his love of raising and showing animals to a new crop of children. When asked what drove his dedication to give back, the young man began to tear up, explaining that his family and 4-H have helped steer him in the right direction during a difficult time in his life.
"I want to do everything I can to help others succeed like I have the last few years," he said.
This fall, the Wanatah teen plans to attend Purdue University, where he will continue to follow his passion for livestock by studying farm management, with a minor in animal nutrition.
While his time competing at the La Porte County Fair may soon come to a close, Mitzner intends to stay involved with 4-H and the fair, be it through mentorship or just cheering on the next generation of showmen from the bleachers, he said.
Another big winner from Wednesday's Swine Show was Wanatah's Chase Rosenbalm, who captured the Grand Champion award for his crossbred barrow. The award was the second major trophy the 12-year-old member of the Cass Champions 4-H club had captured in as many days, as he also won a Grand Champion award in Tuesday's Beef Show for his cross beef steer.