Area Resident to Mark 50 Years of Livestock Competitions

Photo with calf is 1968-Doreen being awarded Kiwanis Heifer Calf at Gogebic County Fair.

When Ironwood township resident Doreen Passuello steps into the show ring with an animal at the Gogebic County Fair this week, she will be reaching a milestone that few will ever reach, an accomplishment that her family believes no one in our area has ever done. You see, this year will mark Passuelloís 50th CONSECUTIVE year of showing animals at the Gogebic County Fair. There have been individuals who have exhibited in the exposition building for 50 years, and two or more generations of a family owned farm who have shown livestock for 50 years, but this is the first time that one INDIVIDUAL has shown livestock for 50 years running, without missing a single year!

above picture - 1962-Doreen getting ready for her second year competing at fair.

The year was 1961. Four year old Doreen Martinson had been going to the Gogebic County Fair every year since she was a born. Her parents had exhibited their registered Holstein cattle each year. But in 1961, Doreenís older sister was 10 years old and had a heifer to show in 4-H classes. Doreen was way too young to join 4-H yet (minimum age at that time was 10 years old) but she refused to be left out of showing at the fair. She convinced her father to let her train a calf and show it in the Ďopení class, against all the farmers with their best calves from their dairy herds. In those days there was no such thing as a Ďtiny totí class and youth waited until they were at least 10 years old and members of a 4-H club to exhibit a livestock project. Except Doreen. She showed her Holstein heifer calf against all the adult farmers with their calves. No one remembers what place ribbon Doreenís calf won, or if it even won a ribbon, but that first show class began a 50 year tradition and a career.

The first picture is 1978. The bull was also Grand Champion at Gogebic County Fair with Doreen at the halter.  
Each year Doreen showed one or more dairy calves in the open classes against the farmers until she was 9 years old, when she switched to showing beef cattle as her parents had sold their dairy herd and began raising registered Polled Hereford beef cattle. She was now old enough to show in the youth classes, too. That year she also began showing in the horse department at the fair. In 1968 Doreen was chosen as the youth recipient of the Kiwanis heifer calf that was awarded during the fair. That calf became the start Doreenís own beef cattle herd and she added more young heifers whenever she found a good registered heifer for sale and had enough money saved to purchase it. Those heifers often were shown to championships and top showmanship honors by Doreen and in 1974, showing her last year in youth classes, Doreenís market steer claimed top price at the very first Gogebic County Youth Market Sale.

Photo 1981-Doreen winning a pole bending speed event at Gogebic County Fair.

In 1975, Doreen, now 18 years old, and her parents began showing their Hereford cattle at the UP State Fair as well as the county fair and in the next years would also show cattle at the Michigan Hereford Show and Sale in Lansing, as well as Purebred Bull Sales and UP Hereford Breederís Shows and Sales in Escanaba. Doreen handled both her own cattle and her parentís show cattle in the ring. An exceptionally proud moment came in 1978 when she showed her parentís 2 year old bull to a Grand Championship at the U.P. State Fair, following the pairs win a week earlier in Ironwood.
In 1980, Doreen married Rod Passuello on August 2nd, and the couple honeymooned while showing their cattle and horses at Gogebic County and cattle at the U.P. State Fair. In fact, their wedding date had been chosen with these events in mind. They had purchased a farm in North Ironwood in the spring, and this was the start of Spring Valley Ranch. Spring Valley Ranch cattle and horses soon became know as some of the best and the couple began to earned honors with their cattle and horses showing in Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota. In 1983, Passuelloís showed a bull calf bred and born at Spring Valley Ranch to a Reserve Championship at the UP State Fair. The bull was then sold to a southwestern Wisconsin farm and was shown at numerous county fairs and the Minnesota Sate Fair for the next 2 years, carrying the Spring Valley Ranch ĎSVĒ logo with him. In 1984, Pete (PJ) Passuello, Rodís 9 year old son, raised and showed the Grand Champion 4-H Market Steer at the Gogebic County Fair, winning the champion youth beef showmanship class as well. In later years, from 1995 thru 2009, three other Passuello sons, Clay, Marty, and Lane, would also make their mark with numerous Grand and Reserve champion market steers, lambs, turkeys, beef and dairy breeding cattle, and horses and winning highest honors in youth showmanship divisions. 
The Passuelloís sold their Hereford breeding herd in 1986 to concentrate on breeding and training Quarter Horses and their show string now began to include Doreenís students and their horses.

For the past 25 years, Doreen has promoted the county fair to her riding students and has had an impressive group of students showing there. The emphasis at Spring Valley Ranch has never been on just winning but rather on breeding or buying the right type of animal, a good feeding program, and teaching each student the skills needed to train and handle the animals themselves. Doreenís training and lesson plans have always emphasized not only good horses, but good horses and GOOD KIDS! Following these ideals, horses and riders from Spring Valley ranch have always stood out at the fair and too many sportsmanship awards, showmanship awards, champions, and highpoint honors have been won by Doreen and her students to count. Each year, at least one or two new showmen join the Spring Valley Ranch show string at the Gogebic County Fair. And while many exhibit their horses for several years, some end up showing at the fair for 10 or 20 years. This yearís Spring Valley Ranch show string includes a lady who first starting showing with Doreen 19 years ago and is still going strong! Many, many of Doreenís students also go on to bigger livestock and equine competitions, too, having gained valuable experience through their start with Doreen at the county fair.

Doreen hasnít limited her support of the county fair to competition for herself and own clients though. She has been instrumental in many fair improvements, including the new announcerís stand and horse arena in the early 2000ís. In 2001, Doreen was the driving force behind a very successful and popular team penning competition that was held during the fair. She has also written and received numerous grants for youth livestock and horse clinics that have been held at the fairgrounds over the years. This past June, Doreen led a volunteer group that hosted a charity horse show at the fairgrounds, a show that put money into the Gogebic County Fair coffers for facility rental and raised nearly $750 for Gogebic Community College scholarships. Doreen is also a certified equine and livestock judge and judges numerous shows and fairs each year, allowing her to come back to Gogebic County with new ideas and new contacts, all which help to benefit our own Gogebic County Fair.

While no one has kept count exactly, well over 200 exhibitors have shown cattle or horses at the Gogebic County Fair in the past 25 years due to their connections with one lady alone, Doreen Passuello. And while Doreen supports the county fair to the fullest, it is not blind support. Five years ago Doreen campaigned loudly against the fair boardís ruling that kept children under 9 years old from competing at the county fair. Her formal protest of the fairís handling of this rule, which resulted in some children under 9 being allowed to exhibit while barring others, was upheld by the Michigan Department of Agriculture. Children of all ages were welcomed back into competition at the county fair in the next summer. This was a very fitting win for Doreen Passuello, who began showing as a tiny 4 year old girl and who credits her career as a professional horseman and livestock judge to her love of competition with animals.

However, Doreen continues a 27 year fight against the fairís rule barring stallions from being exhibited in the horse shows at the county fair. Due to this rule, Doreenís pride and joy, as well as the heart of her equine breeding and training programs, the 5 different stallions she has owned and/or trained, have never been allowed at the Gogebic County Fair. This obsolete 55 year old rule barring stallions is especially prejudiced as the fair allows stallions on the grounds for the harness races, has allowed stallions to enter horse pulling events at the fair, and has even housed those stallions in the same barn as the riding horses. Stallions are welcomed at nearly every other county and state fair and horse show and Doreenís stallions have been very successfully shown all over the upper Midwest for 27 years without a single problem. Her hope is to be able to show her stallion to spectators at her own county fair someday, too. Hardly an unreasonable dream for a lady who once showed her parentís 1980# bull to a Grand Championship at both the County and State Fairs.

While enjoying the fair this year, take a walk through 50 years of memories as you stroll through the exhibit by Spring Valley Ranch in the Livestock Pavilion. This year every one of the horses boarded at Spring Valley Ranch as well as the Ranchís school horses will be shown at the fair. A 4-H market steer owned by Doreenís nephew Eric Martinson and raised at Spring Valley Ranch will also be shown. If fact, the only large animal on the farm that will not be at the fair will be Doreenís stallion. He will be left home alone for the 4 days (the stallion does get to join the show string again in September for the U.P. Equifest horse fair in Escanaba). The 2010 Spring Valley Ranch show string is a great tribute to Doreenís 50 years of work and competition at the fair. However, donít be surprised if another 25 or more years follow in the future!

Current Note: The year after this article was written was the last year Spring Valley Ranch and the Spring Valley Ranch Junior Horseman's Club participated at the Gogebic County Fair as a group. The Gogebic County Fair Board, on action requested by Gogebic County 4-H officials, chose to give favored treatment and stabling to only certain youth at the Gogebic County Fair. In protest of this discriminatory rule, as well as other issues, Doreen no longer shows at her own county fair. However, as any good trainer would do, Doreen will go to the fair to coach during the horse shows if any of her students are showing. The entire Srping Valley Ranch show crew now shows at the nearby Iron County Fair in Saxon, WI and many of the showmen also showed at the Bayfield County Fair in Iron River, WI in 2012 and 2013.