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Oklahoma Youth Expo competitors from northwest Oklahoma braved wildfires to get to OKC

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OKLAHOMA CITY, OKLAHOMA -- They were unpacking Thursday afternoon, getting stalls ready for show cattle that still hadn't arrived at the Oklahoma City Fairgrounds all the way from Laverne, Oklahoma.

"The fire was coming in," recalls Wyatt Jett of Laverne, Oklahoma. "It was all black."

It's been a wild week for kids like Rayli and Kev Cunningham, Tayte Dome and Camdyn Kolbe.

"I was at school," says Rayli, "And my dad called and said you need to come home and start moving cattle."

School let out early Monday afternoon when the skies went dark.

"Like it was turning to dusk," says Kev Cunningham.

Most of Monday night and into Tuesday they all wondered if wild fires would burn everything they owned.

"You could do a 360 and see smoke everywhere you looked," continued Kev.

"As far as you could see there was a glow of flames and smoke and fire," says Rayli. "It was crazy."

These are some of their own pictures as fires burned out of control, as communities like Gate, Knowles, Laverne and Fort Supply evacuated.

Ag teachers like Sandi Kolbe left it up to their students whether they still wanted to show their cattle at this year's Expo.

"It's tough," she says, "to drive out of your drive way and wonder if it's the last time your going to see your place."

"We moved cattle until dark that night," says Rayli. "Basically, the fire burned all of our grass."

Sandi's kids all said yes.

"For young kids, they've all handled it really well," says Kolbe. "I couldn't ask for a better crew."

Thursday afternoon the barns were full of pink, fat Yorkshire pigs from the kinds of rural communities that support a full one-third of Oklahoma public school students.

Over a period of ten days some 7,000 kids will show their animals.

This year a few of them will have stories to tell about what it took to get here in the first place.

The crucible of competition is a welcome respite from the one they faced at home.

The 2017 Oklahoma Youth Expo runs from March 8 to March 17.

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