WESTMINSTER — The Clip 'n' Curl at the Agriculture Center was crowded late Thursday afternoon.
Hair dryers were whirring and the scent of mousse andhair spray was in the air. One patron's dark hair was being spiked, another's long tresses were teased.
Beauty -- or something akin to it -- was slowly emerging from thegreen-and-white tent set up behind the livestock barns.
But it wasn't easy: Coiffed cattle aren't always content.
"You don't push it," said Bryan Harris, 15, of Westminster, who quickly unplugged the hair dryer (actually a vacuum) he was using on his 1,190-pound steer,Flash, when the animal objected.
Steers aren't used to blow-dry cuts, and Flash was rocking in the metal chute Harris had tied him in.
They also aren't often required to have sleek, shiny coats and tails teased into the shape of a ball.
But overall, the 25 or so steers under the tent were taking the beauty shop routine well. Their owners, exhibitors at the Carroll County 4-H/FFA Fair, were stroking their backs and talking soothingly to the animals. The hard part was keeping them clean until it was time to enter the show ring.
The steers, most of which had been purchased by the exhibitors last winter and raised as 4-H projects, were being groomed for the steer division of the beef show Thursday evening. Some of them also were to be sold at the livestock auction Friday night.
The annual week-long fair, which featured myriad 4-H exhibits and shows, ended yesterday.
Most of the steers arrived at their stalls away from home Monday. They -- and the hogs, sheep, goats and dairy cows that also came to the fair -- spent the week being pampered by their owners and stared at by fair-goers.
"They seem to get a lot friendlier at the fair," said Elisha Harrison, 14, of Woodbine, about the two steers she brought to the fair.
Thursday afternoon, her animals were lolling in their stalls, which had been padded with the same kind of bark used for landscaping. They were tied up so they wouldn't wander, and had ample foodand water. Any indiscretions were quickly scooped up.
But not allsteers enjoy the fair. Jered Harrison, Elisha's 12-year-old brother,brought Crazy 8, his aptly named steer.
Mother, Sue Harrison, andolder sister, Rachel, 18, had to help guide the steer through the barn when it was bath time. On the way back, people standing near the stall saw Crazy 8 coming and moved away. The steer -- all 1,170 poundsof him -- made it back to his spot, but not before trying to make a break for it. Strong-arm work by Sue and Rachel kept him in line.
Later, when Jered took the steer into the show ring -- where the judge was looking only at build and muscle structure, not deportment -- Crazy 8 saw his chance. Jered lost his grip on the short lead, and thesteer took a few laps around the show ring before being caught -- and placing third in his class.
"It's a lot of work" raising steers,Sue said. The task teaches 4-H'ers responsibility but requires a lotof support from parents, she said.
Ken Harris, who was helping his son, Bryan, spiff up his steer under the tent, said, "All these kids put a lot of work into their animals. Parents help a lot, too. That's what it's all about."
Before the show, John Harrison, 16, also of Woodbine but not related to Sue Harrison's family, was tending hissteer and heifer and watching his friend's animals as country music played on a radio.
He said he hopes to continue farming after graduating from South Carroll High School next year. In addition to beef cattle, he raises hogs and grain with his father and grandfather and is president of the South Carroll FFA chapter.
They grow most of the feed for the animals. The steers eat about 20 pounds of feed a day, the heifers about eight pounds, he said, plus hay. Steers gain about two pounds a day.
John said he's been showing steers for three years, and when he sold his first one, it was tough to walk by the empty stall in the barn.
"You spend a lot more time with the steers" than the hogs, he said.
Elisha, whose steers were named Runaway and Pudgy, said she has shown steers for six years. The first year was tough at the livestock sale.
"The first year I fell in love with my steer," she said, adding that she cried when it was sold. But she'ssince adopted a "practical" attitude.
"It's not like you're just killing them to kill them," she said. "You're killing them for food. It's good knowing we're raising good meat."