MERCEDES — Camila Cantu grew up tending to her farm animals and attending the Rio Grande Valley Livestock Show every year with her family.

“I have been doing this since I was 8 years old,” Cantu said. “I really enjoy doing this and it’s something I will pursue in my future.”

Yesterday, the Livestock Show grounds were filled with youth who have similar backgrounds, dreams and talents.

Hundreds of students from across the state and the Rio Grande Valley will be showing their farm animals over the next 10 days for a chance to win champion belt buckles and scholarships.

The 78th annual Rio Grande Valley Livestock show is the one nobody wants to miss and many have worked hard all year preparing their animals for the big event.

The annual family affair draws thousands of spectators and people of all ages who come to participate as well as enjoy the carnival rides, play games, see the animals and attend rodeos.

While the fun has started officially with the opening of the show, the work started months ago.

Cantu, a McAllen Memorial junior student said she shows pigs and rabbits but she has always loved raising cows.

“I started planning earlier for this year’s stock show,” Cantu said. “I started with clipping and bathing and making sure I had all my feed and water for a week.”

She said she finished in seventh place yesterday with her Santa Gertrudis named Babygirl because she didn’t have enough mass.

“It’s how you feed and what you do to win,” Cantu said. “She should have eaten more to look fuller.”

She said her goals are to be an event tech and join the livestock judging team at Texas A&M Kingsville.

“This is the culmination of the entire 4-H and FFA student’s hard work,” said Art Garcia, El Dorado Ranch Beefmasters and Hidalgo County 4-H club manager. “This is the ultimate prize for all these kids to get in the show ring and get their 10 minutes of fame.”

Yesterday, students exhibiting their Santa Gertrudis, beefmasters and charolais heifers at the livestock show junior division competition.

“Building up to this event shows the kids a lot about work ethic and it’s a really good day for the 4-H and FFA kids,” said Zack Milbers, parent of a participant at the Livestock show.

La Joya-Juarez-Lincoln High student Julie Arevalo, 16, showed her heifer and bull yesterday.

Arevalo won a belt buckle for showing her bull. And she is the Rio Grande Valley Santa Gertrudis Breed Association Queen.

“It was fun and challenging,” Arevalo said. “I won reserve grand champion and won third in showmanship.”