WAXAHACHIE — Easter is still a few weeks away but rabbits — and chickens — were front and center during day one of the 28th annual Ellis County Youth Expo.

The annual stock show that showcases Ellis County youth at the Ellis County Expo Center kicked off a week of activities Monday evening with the traditional ceremony of flags held by members of the various Ellis County FFA and 4-H chapters.

“This year, we have 809 entries including all animals and shop projects. This will be a great week for Ellis County Agriculture,” said Waxahachie FFA Vice-President James Mismash as he welcomed the many guest attending and show participants.

Following the opening ceremonies, the broilers took over the center arena.

Palmer High School sophomore Jeremy Robinson swept the broiler competition, winning both Reserve and Grand Champion ribbons for his pen entry. For Robinson, 2017 marked his third time to enter the contest, but it was the first time to take the top honors.

The two birds entered by Robinson competed against 75 other entries.

Show judge Paul Booth said the broiler competition is the fairest of all the shows.

“This is only a six to eight-week project to get these birds to their show weight of around eight pounds,” said Booth, as he described the process and explained that all the birds are ordered from the same hatchery.

"The students choose how many birds they want to work with. Everyone starts off with the same chance to win,” Booth added.

As Booth inspected each of the birds entered, he explained what he was looking for and described the desirable characteristics that the top bird should have.

“The quality here tonight is great and really deep. I’m extremely impressed. The top of the class here are Houston show quality and could competitively compete in Houston,” Booth said.

An elated Robinson stated, "It feels really good to have my birds awarded both the Grand and Reserve Grand awards. Winning these tonight makes me feel good knowing I have a good future ahead of me."

Across the arena, the rabbit show began with 126 total entries competing in the breeder and market classes. This year, Ellis County Youth Expo (EYCE) first-timer, Frank Farrow of Lufkin judged the rabbits.

As he began looking over the pens, Farrow stated, "Both the breeders and markets are good and show good quality."

Howard Junior High seventh-grader Jonathan Middleton, representing Waxahachie FFA, took home the grand champion banner for the breeder class, which was the third time for Middleton to take the Grand Champion banner home in the breeder class.

“I started with rabbits because they were small. They are different from the larger animals,” said Middleton, who will look to repeat the success with his goat and lamb during Tuesday's drives.

In the market rabbit class, Kaitlyn Linsenbardt’s entry was awarded the Grand Champion banner — the second for Waxahachie FFA.

"I’m excited to be here with the Grand banner. I got started showing because I love animals and love working with them," said Linsenbardt, who is the daughter of John and Emily Linsenbardt of Waxahachie.

The Reserve Grand Champion went to Ruby Daily from Midlothian FFA.

In the showmanship competition, senior showman went to Sidney Padgett from Waxahachie FFA, while the junior top showman went to Ty Turner of Maypearl FFA.

The youth expo show continued Tuesday with the lamb and goat drives, where each of the classes competed for Grand and Reserve Champions for the market and showmanship in each species. The peewee shows also took place.

Results of the Tuesday shows were not available by press time and will be in Thursday's Daily Light.