It’s the third day at the county fair and the quadruplets have to feed their pigs.
Bailey, Sydney, Tayler and Dillon Docter wake up at 6 a.m. in order to be at the swine pavilion at a decent time. The 12-year-olds have done this before and know the drill: food, water and off to the wash racks.
The four of them hose off all eight pigs as the pavilion gets crowded with 4-H and FFA kids in jeans and T-shirts, preparing for the day’s competition. They walk their pigs around the Lancaster Event Center pavilion filled with myriad other livestock: cows, poultry, rabbits, sheep, goats, llamas and alpacas.
The quadruplets have been showing livestock and static exhibits at the Lancaster County Super Fair for four years. Not only do they live and breathe competition, but 4-H has been a focus in their family for four generations.
“It’s a whole lot harder being a parent to a 4-Her than actually being the kid,” said mother Jana Docter. “You have to do so much more and make sure they are in the right place at the right time.”
Docter was in 4-H, along with her brother, Nate Dowding, the operations manager of the Lancaster Event Center. The two were members of the Happy Go Lucky 4-H club, which was run by their father, Ron Dowding, for 23 years. Now he's president of the Lancaster County Agricultural Society.
Ron Dowding’s father, Gerald, led the Silver Creek 4-H club in Otoe County for several years before he died.
“I don’t ever get tired (of the fair),” Ron Dowding said. “Once it’s in your blood, it’s hard to get rid of.”
The quadruplets enter other exhibits, such as bakery items, nail art, vegetables, sewn clothing and more. Dillon and Bailey also show feeder calves.
All of their pigs received blue and purple ribbons at the swine show Friday, but winning isn’t everything.
“I just love to spend time with all of the animals,” Bailey said.
The four also love to visit Daryl’s Racing Pigs, an attraction that has been at the county fair for several years.
Every year, the quadruplets take a road trip to buy the pigs they want for the upcoming fair — this year's group came from North Dakota. Last year’s pigs went to the butcher, much to everyone’s delight for the bacon that comes from each one.
It takes a lot of work to prepare their pigs for the fair, and the more time put into working with them, the better the outcome is. The four work on their farm near Firth to get ready for the competition.
They all agreed that the hardest part of showing is when the animals don’t cooperate.
“As an observer (of a show), you think that it looks easy to make your animal stay still in the right position,” said the quadruplets’ grandma and cheerleader, Arlene Dowding. “But it’s a long process and a lot harder than it looks.”
When asked if they're going to stay in 4-H until they age out at 18, Bailey, Sydney, Tayler and Dillon automatically said yes. Of course, not a year goes by without some competition between them.
“(Competing at) the fair teaches them life lessons and responsibilities,” Jana Docter said. “If they can work together, they love it.”