Once upon a time, there was a Michigan fan who made a bet with a teenage boy about the Illinois State Fair and wound up with an Illini tattoo.
Oh, but wait! You can bet there’s a whole lot more to it than that.
Enter one Jeremy Hackett, Spangler farm employee. Loves kids, animals, county fairs, the University of Michigan and razzing our young University of Illinois Fighting Illini fans.
Last summer, Jeremy made a bet with our oldest, Jenna: If she won senior showmanship at the county fair, he’d wear an Illini shirt to the state fair. She won. He wore the shirt. We declared he looked good in orange.
This summer, he made the same bet with Caroline, our youngest. She won junior showmanship at the county fair, and Jeremy made plans to wear the Illini shirt to the state fair, again.
Somehow, the same day, Jeremy made another bet with our son Nathan and raised the stakes significantly: “You win showmanship at the state fair, I’ll get an Illini tattoo!” Clearly, he thought this was a long shot.
Fast-forward to beef showmanship at the Illinois State Fair. Jeremy sported his Illini shirt. Caroline showed her heart out and won reserve champion for her age division. We were ecstatic. Nathan’s age division was up next. His heifer was showing like a dream, and he showed her like it was his job. He made the cut for the top eight. Then the top five. They’d talked about the bet all day. Jeremy started getting nervous.
Sure enough, the judges announced it: Nathan was the champion showman for his division! Cheers erupted from the stands where Jeremy sat, and Nathan immediately shot him a big grin from the ring. Tattoo, baby!
MOTIVATION: Jeremy Hackett made a state fair bet with two Spangler kids this year. One resulted in a T-shirt … the other in a tattoo. Next year’s mantra: Lower the stakes, man.
But really, a tattoo? Like, permanently? For a team he doesn’t even like? Was he serious? Outside the ring, Jeremy slapped Nathan on the back, gave him a big hug and said, “A bet’s a bet!” Two weeks later, he came in with a (very permanent) Chief Illiniwek tattoo on the back of his leg. Now the kids were the ones cheering.
CHIEF: You could say the stakes were raised at our county fair this year, permanently.
Friends, this is what a motivated kid can do. It’s what can happen when an adult cares about a kid, makes a risky bet and sees it all the way through to the end, in a somewhat unbelievable fashion.
And next year? We’re making plans for some kind of tattoo reveal at the county fair, where it’s clear that — with the right motivation — anything can happen.
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