SALEM — A competition between county 4-H livestock champions will enter its third year in Salem this weekend, when youth from a dozen area counties converge at the McCook County Fairgrounds for the Showdown of Champions.

The competition portion of the event is scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 18.

The event will bring together the champions in five livestock categories from 12 different counties to compete head-to-head in each division. Those divisions, which include market beef, market swine, market lamb, market goat and breeding beef, will see approximately 60 individuals total vie for the top position.

Paul Grace, founder of the event, said the competition was modeled after a similar event in Iowa. He said it will provide a chance for 4-H participants to capitalize on winning a category at their county 4-H Achievement Days, something that isn’t necessarily emphasized strongly at that level. And while the South Dakota State Fair does allow 4-H members a chance to compete after the county level, the Showdown of Champions is a chance to expand the horizons of eager competitors.

“My goal when we started was to try to get the quality at county fairs a little bit higher. In the past things had started to slip with exhibits and stuff,” Grace said. “The state fair is still good, but you don’t necessarily have to win at the county level to go to state.”

The competition is by invitation only, with participants required to have won their division at the county fair level.

“The concept is we have a 12-county district that we started, and we take the champions from each of those counties and they come together to compete,” Grace said.

Grace said competitors will enter the presentation area one at a time with an announcer providing details on each participant, their championship performance at the county level and other personal information. Judges will then examine the animal before the next participant brings their animal forward until all 12 counties have been examined and are present in the ring. The judges will then award the top finisher from those entries. Prizes include cash and banners for the top finishers.

“All 12 will be in the ring and the judges will give their reasons for their placing. We take it a step further and do a little more announcing of the kids and showcase those guys,” Grace said.

The event has only grown in size and popularity since it was introduced three years ago, Grace said. He estimated about 80 percent of eligible competitors took part in the first Showdown of Champions, when the coverage area only included 10 counties. This year it is expected only two eligible competitors will be absent from the event, which is an indication people are supporting the competition.

“It’s been very well-received and people talk about it all year long,” Grace said. “Everybody has really embraced the idea. It gets bigger every year. It’s blowing up.”

And the idea is taking off in other places, as well. Grace said that another two similar events are in development involving other South Dakota counties, something that hopefully leads to a competition between various regional champions, not just among county champions.

Grace said he is excited for the potential of more competitions taking place throughout the state. Those two regions cover a larger area than the Showdown of Champions, he said, so it may be beneficial for those regions to be broken down into small regions. That would help cut down on travel distance for many potential competitors, Grace said.

“Those two regions are a little bit bigger than ours. Our hopes are that they’ll maybe split those up a little bit,” Grace said.

But the fact that interest appears to be spreading to other counties is a positive development to Grace, who encourages the public to come out and support area 4-H champions Saturday as they enter the ring with their finest livestock and compete for bragging rights in a 12-county region.

“It’s one more place to take your animal. We’ve sorted out that we’re going to have only the best there, and it’s a tough show,” Grace said.

The event will get underway at 3 p.m. with a free picnic for the public. Introductions and the singing of the national anthem will take place at 4:30 p.m. before the market swine competition at 5 p.m. Following that will be the market lamb competition at 5:30 p.m., the market goat competition at 6 p.m., the breeding beef competition at 6:30 p.m. and the market beef competition at 7 p.m.

Members participating in the event hail from Brookings, Davison, Hanson, Hutchinson, Kingsbury, Lake, Lincoln, McCook, Miner, Minnehaha, Moody and Turner counties.