Fair competitor isn’t sheepish about likes

Katie Petty, in pink, shows her market lamb as Kiffaney Ridings helps.

Katie Petty loves the purple shampoo she uses to clean her two sheep, E.T. and Rango, at the Mesa County Fair.

And if you talk to her long enough, she’ll list off more of her favorite things.

Her shiny belt buckle.  Chuck-E-Cheese. Wendy’s. Snow cones. “Long Black Train” by Josh Turner. “California Gurls” by Katy Perry. Purple sheep shampoo.

Katie isn’t your typical competitor at the fair. The 12-year-old has Down syndrome. But that doesn’t stop her from raising and showing sheep, as she has for the past four years. Although Katie gets a little help from her family during shearing and washing time, she raises the sheep by herself. She walks the sheep by herself during the showmanship competition. And she insists on selling her sheep herself.

In fact, the only difference between Katie and the other competitors is that her cousin, Kiffaney Ridings, accompanies her into the ring when she shows her sheep for the market competition.

It was 20-year-old Kiffaney who helped introduce Katie to competing at the Mesa County Fair. Kiffaney and her siblings competed, and when Katie’s older sister, Tyannia, was old enough to compete, Kiffaney helped show her the ropes. The enthusiasm for breeding and showing animals trickled down to Katie.

So, does Katie love the Mesa County Fair?

“Oh yeah,” she said.

Has Kiffaney been her partner her whole life?

“Oh yeah.”

Do you name all your sheep after movies?

“Oh yeah.”

Katie doesn’t plan on slowing down anytime soon. Next year, she said, she’s going to tackle showing steers, with Kiffaney’s help, of course.

“Her mom doesn’t know it yet, but she’s got a heifer at her house,” Kiffaney said with a twinkle in her eye.

And who knows? After next year, Katie may just tack “cows” onto her list of favorite things —  if they have purple shampoo.


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