It's county fair season, that time of year when small-town 4-H clubs compete in activities such as livestock and needlepoint contests. And community bankers are getting in on the action.
That's the case in Martinsville, Ind., population 12,000. Representatives of two banks the $245 million-asset Home Bank, and the $387 million-asset Citizens Bank recently squared off at the Martinsville fair's "celebrity goat-milking contest."
It was simply one of those duties of a community banker, said Lisa Arnold, the chief operations officer at Home Bank and one of the contestants.
"The local fair board reached out and asked us to participate," she said. "We're both the community banks present in this area."
Arnold competed against Troy Sprinkle, a zone manager for Citizens, based just down the road in Mooresville. Wearing straw cowboy hats and bandanas, the two bankers competed head to head (well, udder to udder) before an arena crowd of more than 200 people by Sprinkle's estimate.
The goal: to fill a glass with as much milk as possible, straight from the goat's udder.
Both bankers milked cows when they were younger. Arnold insisted, though, that milking a goat a much smaller animal requires a different technique.
"Milking a goat is not the easiest thing to do," Arnold said, though she declined to provide details.
Sprinkle beat Arnold in the first round. He then won two additional rounds against local business leaders and politicians, claiming the title of "udderly awesome celebrity goat-milking contest" champion.
"He won it handily," Arnold said.
Sprinkle took home a plaque, a coffee mug and a T-shirt as prizes. "You've got to know me," he said. " I didn't care if I got any milk out at all. I just wanted to have fun."
Bankers in other states, such as Dean Vogelaar, the president of the Steamboat Springs, Colo., branch of Mountain Valley Bank, give similar descriptions of their commitment to local fairs.
Vogelaar has been volunteering at the Routt County Fair's youth livestock auction for about 15 years, he said.
He grew up participating in local 4-H competitions. He has also been involved on the group's scholarship committee.
His main duty, though, is working as a ringman at the fair's livestock auction, where he escorts hogs, sheep and cattle into and out of the arena.
"I have a passion for 4-H," Vogelaar said, "because I think the kids all learn and have good values."
He said he enjoys the fair from a business perspective, as well, because it "bridges the gap" in the community between the "business side and the more agricultural side" of town.
Each year, his branch of the $156 million-asset Mountain Valley Bank buys one of the farm animals from the auction, usually to donate to charity though occasionally the employees share it, he said.
"Fair time is always kind of like Christmas" for those who grew up around agriculture, Vogelaar said.