A "prime" group of area 4-H high school students is set to represent Tennessee at the National Meats Evaluation Contest in Denver, Colorado, during the second weekend of January 2020.
The members of the Rutherford County high school team will hold a fundraising dinner called "Meat Me In Denver," featuring baked ham, vegetables, homemade rolls, dessert and drink on Saturday, Sept. 21, at The Gathering at Milton, 12026 Milton St., in Milton, to help raise $4,000 for their expenses.
The buffet meal is $20. Two seating times are available at 5 and 6:30 p.m. Tickets are limited. They must be purchased in advance and go on sale Aug. 15. The 4-H team will serve beverages to attendees.
Members of the group include brothers Jason and Kyle Benson, Haylee Ferguson, Emily Nave and John Buyrl Neely. The coaches are Cynthia Shirley and Phyllis Ferguson, who is Haylee's mother.
"Like any sport, hours of practice and hard work went into preparing for this event," said Haylee Ferguson, 16, a junior at Eagleville School. "The contest has provided us with many life skills such as decision-making and communication. We are excited about having the privilege to represent Rutherford County at a national contest."
Shirley, a veteran 4-H coach, is Neely's grandmother. She is known for being encouraging but focused on expecting the best effort from the entire team, including her grandson.
The hard-working students put months of intense studying and earned second place in the regional and state contest in Knoxville to snare their national berth.
In preparation for these events, the group has had to learn more than 75 cuts of meat from beef, pork and lamb and be able to visually select a top-quality piece of meat, plus other skills.
"It meant a lot to achieve this goal. We tried our hardest and it feels good to know we are going to represent Tennessee in Denver," said Neely, a Cannon County High School sophomore. "Now we are working hard on raising money for our trip and hope people will support our efforts."
In addition to the ham dinner, to support the 4-H team, there will be a drawing for one free rental of The Gathering, a bake sale, a separate sale of preordered whole pies (fudge, coconut and pecan) for $10 each and sale of autumn mums. Mums and pies can be picked up at The Gathering during the event.
The pies and catered meal are being made by caterer Carolyn Miller of Carolyn's Creations.
Tickets and pie orders can be made by calling The Gathering at Milton at 615-653-6018 or by contacting any of the 4-H team members.
PHOTO: Kyle Benson, left, Haylee Ferguson, Emily Nave and John Buyrl Neely, members of the Rutherford County high school 4-H Meats Evaluation Team, are all smiles after a round of judging hams during the state of Tennessee 4-H High School Meats Evaluation Contest in Knoxville, Tenn., earlier this year. (Submitted photo)