Charlie and Ella Hawkesd’granddaughter, Rebecca, beamed as she shook the judged’ hand and received a first-place ribbon in Junior Sheep Showmanship at the 2018 Sonoma County Fair. Her family, ringside, applauded and wore expressions of pride as they watched as the hard work their 3rd generation family member put into her 4-H project paid off.
Charlie Hawkes likely wore a similar expression as Rebecca when he won Grand Champion Duroc at the Sonoma County Fair in 1965. The Hawkes family has been a part of the Sonoma County Fair since 1960 when 9-year-old Charlie Hawkes first entered a Duroc hog and chocolate chip cookies into the fair.
Hawkes said that his parents werend’ involved in farming when he was growing up but that they supported him getting involved with 4-H. However, Charlie said that he probably wouldnd’ have gotten involved in 4-H and showing at the Sonoma County Fair had it not been for one important person, Doris Josephson, his 4-H leader.
“Dorisd’son was my best friend,” Charlie said. “She opened the door for me to get involved and thatd’ all I really needed. Now, here I am today, still.”
Charlie said that he thinks his life would have been very different if not for his 4-H leader.
“Thatd’ what we hope to do for other kids,” Charlie said. “We want to open new doors or different avenues for some of these kids that will become involved and hopefully stay involved in agriculture. For us, thatd’ what itd’ all about.”
Charlie and Ella Hawkes, who retired just 6 years ago from a long career in the drilling and pump business, have been married for 46 years. Neither is from an agriculture background but together, they have become dedicated members of the agriculture community in Sonoma County.
The Hawkes raise crossbreds and their beloved Durocs to sell to local 4-H and FFA members and for their grandchildren to show on their property in Sebastopol. Charlie said that they have 11 sows and two boars as well as several replacement-breeding animals.
“We are really small-time agriculture,” Charlie said. “We are just a drop in a bucket of water, but we are involved in agriculture because we see it as a different way to educate our kids and grandkids that they may not necessarily get in school.”
He said that although they have had several Grand and Reserve Champion hogs that were bred and born on their property, they havend’ had a Supreme Champion yet.
“Supreme Champion, thatd’ the dream youd’e always chasing,” Charlie said. “Our daughter Brenda had the Reserve Supreme Champion Market Hog her last year showing at the Sonoma County Fair. It was pretty cool for her to go out like that.”
All three of Charlie and Ellad’ daughters, Lindy, Brenda and Connie, showed hogs.
“Of course, being sisters, they each had to have their own breed,” Charlie said.”
Now, there are three generations of Hawkes who have shown at the Sonoma County Fair. The youngest exhibitor showing in a 4-H program is Rebecca Ficco, 11, who is a member of Forestville 4-H, she exhibits hogs, sheep, and chickens. Her sister, Kayla, exhibits breeding and market Durocs and her Dalmatian Dog at the fair. The youngest exhibitor is their five-year-old granddaughter Chloe Galea, who helped her grandparents show at the open swine show this year.
Benefits from Time Spent in the Barn
Charlie said he is confident that growing up in 4-H and showing at the fair helped him, his children, and now his grandchildren develop the life skills that have enabled them to be successful and kept them involved in the community.
“I think the most important things that I hope our grandkids learn are the ability to communicate and to apply common sense to different areas of life,” Charlie said. “I think the experience of raising livestock and exhibiting at the fair helps them to learn the importance of management and responsibility.”
He said that because livestock animals rely on you every day, and sometimes twice a day, he thinks exhibitors can develop responsibility and how to communicate with grown ups in a way that they wouldnd’ necessarily get to by being involved in sports or other youth activities.
Charlie said that the biggest thing he hopes fair attendees get out of visiting the livestock barns is the opportunity to see agriculture up close so that they can get a better perspective about the reality of agriculture.
“I think this fair gives people firsthand information about where food comes from,” Charlie said. “Chocolate milk doesnd’ come from a brown cow and pork chops come from a hog. I think visiting the livestock barns gives the public a reality check about where food actually comes from. Yes, all fairs have rides and food, but I think that the educational component of fairs is what is most important.”
Charlie explained that while some people can afford to buy an expensive livestock animal and expensive feed and, and if things go right, they can end up at the top of their market class. However, in the showmanship ring, it is more of an even playing field. That is why he said it was so meaningful to him when, in 1969, he won 4-H Round Robin at both the Sonoma-Marin and Sonoma County Fairs.
“I received a stainless steel plaque and a trophy,” Charlie said. “It was pretty special.”
He also said he remembers the days when you actually stayed with your animals on the fairgrounds.
“I loved being able to put my hogs in one pen then put some straw and a cot down into the pen next to them and live at the fairgrounds for 10 days or so,” Charlie said.
He said that he and Ella tried to replicate as close to that experience as they could for their kids.
“We parked out in D Lot with trailers and we would always have 20 or 30 kids over for breakfast, lunch and dinner,” Charlie said. “Those were some special memories.”
Charlie said that today, his daughters are creating the same experiences for their kids.
Brenda Ficco, Charlie and Ellad’ daughter said that some of her most special fair memories are of the time she spent with her parents.
“I loved staying the night in our trailer at the fairgrounds when I was a kid,” Brenda said. “My mom cooked breakfast, lunch and dinner for all of us, she cooked every single meal.”
In 2018, Brenda attended her 30th Sonoma County Fair. She exhibited at the Sonoma County Fair from 9-years-old to 17-years-old. She and her twin sister, Lindy, and their older sister, Connie, showed market swine, and Duroc, Chester, and Yorkshire breeding hogs.
“I grew up with a twin sister, so we were always head-to-head in showmanship,” Brenda said. “We were always so competitive that it was fun that we were always at the top of our showmanship class and it came down to us two. We never knew who was going to win coming into the show ring. It became a kind of joke.”
Brenda said that her Dad, Charlie, passed on his love of showing to her and her sisters.
“My parents taught us that once you get your animal you have to work with it, you have to do it until the very end, and that the time you put into your project will pay off in the show ring,” Brenda said. “So, what my Mom and Dad taught us, we passed on to our daughters.”
Brenda said that her family has had 30 years of wonderful fair memories and now her two daughters, Kayla, 11, and Rebecca, 13, both show at the fair.
Brenda said that she has seen real value in her experiences showing at the Sonoma County Fair and being a 4-H member and is glad her daughters are continuing the family tradition of 4-H involvement.
“I think 4-H makes you grow into being a true leader, impowers a young person to be a leader, and the other thing that I see is that 4-H kids never give up,” Brenda said. “People who were 4-H members are dedicated, on time and they just finish the job and make sure itd’ done well.”
She added that showing at the Sonoma County Fair has been great for her daughters socially.
“Theyd’e actually making lots of new friends,” Brenda said. “Rebecca said that one of her favorite parts of 4-H is meeting new friends and that she met her best friend through 4-H.”
Charlie agreed that their family developed many lasting friendships because of their involvement with the Sonoma County Fair.
“All of us are still involved,” Charlie said. “When you go up to the scales on weigh in day the people that are around the scales are the people that we just competed against in the open show and are still there helping exhibitors.”
He said that it takes a lot of work to put the fair on and that there are many people who volunteer their time to help make it all come together. Charlie is one of those volunteers.
“I help weigh in all the hogs, announce the hog show, am one of the auctioneers helping at the auction, and also help my grandkids.” Charlie said. “For the 10 days I am at fair each year there is something to do all the time.”
Charlie is also a member of the Sonoma County Fair Swine Advisory Committee. He said that during the fair people often come up to him with questions or suggestions for fair improvements.
Both Charlie and Ella Hawkes didnd’ stop showing after their daughters graduated high school. Their granddaughter, Bailey Alberigi, said that it means a lot to her to her that both of her grandparents are still showing at the Sonoma County Fair.
“I think it is really amazing that they still show and that they watch all of us grandkids show.”
Bailey, along with her brother Wyatt, is a member of the third generation in the Hawkes family to show at the Sonoma County Fair. She said that she got her start at the fair when she was just three-years-old helping her Grandpa Charlie, at the open swine show. Now, in her 8th year as a 4-H member, Bailey shows both market steers and hogs and said she still loves everything about showing at the Sonoma County Fair.
Bailey said that her grandparents provide her with support and encouragement.
“They help me with everything all the time,” Bailey said. “Theyd’e always making sure I have everything I need and come to the fair every year to watch me show.”
Bailey said that because she grew up showing she has learned a lot about animals, especially pigs, and developed skills that she said she knows will allow her to be successful in the future.
“Id’e learned a lot about time management,” Bailey said. “There is definitely a lot of responsibility and hard work that goes into raising animals for the fair. You have to be out there every day taking care of your animals and working with them to get them ready for fair.”
She said that she can teach people about agriculture when they come into the barns and look at her animals.
“Fair visitors stop and ask me questions all the time,” Bailey said. “I often explain to people about what the notches in pigsd’ears are for and also what breed of pig they are.”
Bailey said that she sees herself always coming to the fair in the future and hopes that even one day her kids will show at the Sonoma County Fair.
A Family Legacy
Brenda said that her family looks forward to the Sonoma County Fair every year.
“Fair is the only two weeks that wed’e all together,” Brenda said. “We all come as a family and we all work together as a family.”
She said that she sees her family continuing to exhibit at the Sonoma County Fair for many generations.
“Our baby cousin was in the stands at the sheep show and he only a week old!” Brenda said. “I think we will always come and help. Really, I think the Hawkes family will be here forever!”