LAMAR, S.C. - Lone Palmetto Farms in Lamar was filled with the sound of a thousand bleats as Mike and Stacy Atkinson played host to the first South Carolina Pygmy Goat Classic sanctioned by the National Pygmy Goat Association.
Just as surely as people show their dogs and horses in competition, so, too, do proud pygmy goat owners.
"There's never been a show here in South Carolina," Mrs. Atkinson said. So the North Carolina Pygmy Goat Club agreed to sponsor the show.
"We've had today several people just coming and going, just to see what showing goats is about," Mrs. Atkinson said.
In addition to the goatless and the curious, the Atkinsons played host to 85 goats, which doesn't include the more than 60 they have themselves.
In one morning show and one afternoon show, goat owners from South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, Florida and Texas led their charges around the ring under an awning in the Atkinsons' backyard.
Marcia Read of Southwestern Pennsylvania was one of two judges. She described some of the qualities she looks for in winning goats.
"You look for sound confirmation, you look for balance; you want a strong, correct animal," Ms. Read said. "You also, in the does, want some femininity, and some masculinity in the bucks."
The winners are given the title "Best," with the second-place title being "Reserve." The best in senior and junior categories then compete against each other for the Grand Champion title.
"The does can only win three grands and then they're retired and they're called a permanent grand champion," Mrs. Atkinson said.
Bucks can win four grands and wethers - males that have been neutered - can win 12 grands.
"The wethers are a little bit different," Atkinson said. "They are kind of like our PR, they're the pet. They're the animal that, if you're going to get something just to see if you like pygmy goats, that's what you want to get."
Pygmies, as the name suggests, are smaller than other breeds of goats.
"My little nephew has shown goats when he was 3 years old, and a lot of breeds you just can't do that," Mrs. Atkinson said.
While this was definitely a competition - winning goats receive trophies and ribbons - the atmosphere wasn't competitive, and the cutthroat attitudes sometimes found at other animal showings was absent.
"I like to see everybody else win, and I like winning myself, but I don't expect to go in and win every time, and I don't think anyone here does, so that makes it more enjoyable," Mrs. Atkinson said.
Brian Stewart and seven of his goats came all the way from Florida to participate in the show.
"You'll never meet a greater group of people than the people at these shows," he said. "Everybody's happy when somebody else wins."
Mr. Stewart said he's been showing his goats for about two years and attends about 16 shows a year. He said that while there's sometimes great expense involved for people who are serious about showing goats, as he is, he does it for the fun of it. He described how thrilled he was when one of his first goats won his first competition.
"When he won his first purple (ribbon) ... I mean, I was ecstatic," Mr. Stewart said. "You'd think I had birthed him myself."
Also at the show with veterans such as Mr. Stewart were newcomers. Terri Chandler of Hartsville brought along some of her goats, who came away as winners, to compete in the showing for unregistered goats.
"We buy and resell (pygmy goats) mostly," Ms. Chandler said. "It's our first show, and we'd like to continue doing it."