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Dillan Dight to represent Floyd County at Governor’s Charity Steer Show

  • Dillan Dight of Rockford will take his steer, "Rocky," to the Governor's Charity Steer Show to compete next week on the grounds of the Iowa State Fair. Press photo by Kelly Terpstra

  • Dillan Dight of Rockford will take his steer, "Rocky," to the Governor's Charity Steer Show to compete next week on the grounds of the Iowa State Fair. Press photo by Kelly Terpstra

  • Dillan Dight of Rockford will take his steer, "Rocky," to the Governor's Charity Steer Show to compete next week on the grounds of the Iowa State Fair. Press photo by Kelly Terpstra

By Kelly Terpstra,

Dillan Dight rises bright and early every morning to visit his friend, Rocky.

Chores need to be done and animals need to be fed on Dight’s family farm near Rockford.

That often means waking up before the crack of dawn to give the proper care any friend the size of Rocky requires.

You can’t blame Dight if he gives a little extra attention to Rocky — a 1,400-pound cross-bred black steer that has become like a best buddy to the 13-year-old who will be a seventh grader at RRMR School this fall.

Rocky was bred and born in Casper, Wyoming. That’s how the award-winning steer got its name.

“It’s the Rocky Mountain State, so that’s kind of how we came up with that,” said Dillan.

Rocky and Dight will continue an impressive tradition for Floyd County when the Governor’s Charity Steer Show gets underway on Saturday, Aug. 10, at the Iowa State Fair.

Dight and Rocky were selected to participate at the show that helps raise money for the Ronald McDonald Houses of Iowa.

“Our kids work hard and they put a lot of time and effort into their projects,” said Matt Hoeft, who helps select a steer from Floyd County every year. “To me it’s a big showcase to be able to see that and reward them for that.”

Dight and Rocky are aiming to continue a winning run for Floyd County when the fundraising celebrity event kicks off at 4 p.m. at the Pioneer Livestock Pavilion.

Floyd County has a steer compete at the charity show for the 14th year in a row – dating back to 2006. Floyd County is the two-time defending champion in the Showmanship category.

Alec Staudt, also from Rockford, won the top prize for showmanship with his steer, Bugs, last summer. His celebrity handler was Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig.

Jayden Jorgenson of Rudd and then Iowa Secretary of Ag Bill Northey also earned the purple ribbon with their steer, Hershey, at the 2017 charity show.

The owner or herdsman of the steer walks behind the celebrity handler. There are 25 steers that compete at the prestigious charity show, shown by politicians, famous Iowa athletes, fair queens, business leaders and others, along with the students who raised the animals.

Hoeft said Josh Becker of Charles City won the judge’s choice – the most coveted award – at the 2008 charity show with his steer, O’Malley.

“To be able to come home with a ribbon – that’s a huge honor. I can’t say enough,” said Hoeft, who created the Friends of Floyd County, one of the main sponsors in the area that helps send money to the hospitals.

Dight’s father, Trent, also showed at the Governor’s Charity Show, in 1994, for Chickasaw County. He said he is proud that his son has really taken to showing cattle and is succeeding at it.

“Showing steers is what he does,” said Trent.

Trent remembers when nerves almost got the best of his son three years ago at the Cattle Congress show in Waterloo.

“He was like, ‘I’m too nervous, I can’t do this,’” said Trent about his son’s jitters showing his little feeder calf for the first time.

Trent said Dillan, only 10 years old back then, finished third overall.

“I was like, uh oh, this might be getting him hooked,” laughed Trent.

Dillan placed fourth among those showing 40 steers recently at the Block and Bridle Show in Austin, Minnesota. He placed third in Market Beef just a few weeks ago at the Floyd County Fair. Sarah Mitchell won grand champion market beef in that category with her steer, Winston. Bronson Forsyth placed runner-up.

Dillan is a member of the Ulster Future Leaders 4-H club. He might not be the youngest entrant in the charity show, but he definitely won’t be the oldest.

“Floyd County generally takes high school kids,” Trent said. “He’s kind of mature for his age.”

Rocky was born in April 2018 and most steers that compete at the charity event are around 16-18 months old, according to Hoeft.

Dillan’s day starts early with Rocky. He said he’ll pull his feed pan around 9 o’clock and then turn the mister on to cool Rocky down. Trent said many show cattle stay in air-conditioned barns, but not on his farm. Fans are situated that help spray water on Rocky to keep the temperature in the barn anywhere from 64-66 degrees during the hot summer months.

Dillan said Rocky’s tail will point straight out after the cold water mist makes him more relaxed and at ease.

“This cow will stand in front of this fan and will shake his rear end on how much he likes it,” said Jerri, Dylan’s mom. “It’s pretty cool.”

The bond between Dillan and Rocky is strong. So much so that Dillan wanted to meet the previous owners of Rocky on his birthday around Memorial Day.

“That was his birthday wish, to go out to see this guy, where Rocky came from,” said Trent.

So the Dights hopped in a truck and headed West for a 12-hour ride to cowboy country, smack-dab in the middle of Wyoming.

“You figure he has spent thousands upon thousands of hours with this steer,” said Trent. “It’s tough. It’s like a family member.”

Part of the Governor’s Charity Steer Show is to raise money to help the families of  children who stay at hospitals located in Des Moines, Sioux City and Iowa City. Dillan said he has come up with almost $14,000 already from sponsors and donations. Trent said 65 percent of the donations have come from the western part of Floyd County, where the Dights live.

“We’ve done really good,” said Trent.

The Dights will leave Wednesday to head down to Des Moines to get ready for the charity show. Friday morning family members will travel to the Ronald McDonald House in Des Moines and show competitors will volunteer their time for four hours doing various jobs. Then they’ll eat lunch with Gov. Kim Reynolds.

Former Gov. Terry Branstad, along with the Iowa Beef Industry and Iowa Cattlemen’s Association, came up with the idea for the charity steer show in 1983.

After the show is complete, an auction will take place to sell the steers. Last year’s charity show broke a record by raising almost $300,000. Over $3.5 million has been raised and contributed to the Ronald McDonald Houses in the state overall.

Hoeft cut a check for $17,000 through the Friends of Floyd County to buy Alec Staudt’s Bugs at the auction last year.

Jerri said most of the steers are sent to meat lockers across the state.

That’s a hard pill for Dillan to swallow — knowing that his friend, Rocky, more than likely won’t be coming home after the show. Or if he does make the trip back to Floyd County, he won’t be able to stay in Rockford for long.

“This young man is already in tears because he knows Rocky won’t be coming home,” said Jerri, tearing up herself talking about Rocky. “Every night he sits and cries.”

Dillan asked that Rocky’s halter be brought back to the farm after the show.

Jerri said Dillan is already grooming two 5-month-old steers named Cupid and Rusty for next year’s fair.

While Cupid and Rusty might have big shoes to fill in Rocky’s absence, this will definitely be a summer that Dillan won’t forget anytime soon.

“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said Trent.