Lucas Lewandowski had never taken home a champion title from his events at the Gage County Fair until last Thursday.

Lucas was named the grand champion of the junior showmanship competition and won the belt buckle award of the junior division, but it was a bittersweet victory.

The man who had inspired Lucas to ride, his grandfather, had passed away just over a week before the fair.

“He really liked horses and really wanted me to ride,” Lucas said.

Lucas’s grandparents owned a business that bred and raised performance horses. They kept 38 horses that Lucas was able to help care for.

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“He would spend most the summer up at Grandpa and Grandma’s house, most summers,” Lucas’s mother, Stacy, said. “Except this year was a little bit different. Otherwise, he liked to go up there and help out.”

Despite his years of training and hard work, Lucas was a little nervous before the horse show on Thursday.

“I was a little bit nervous,” he said. “What if I got bucked?”

The competition ran smoothly, though Stacy said that one important spectator was missing from the stands.

“[Lucas’s grandfather] really enjoyed watching the kids ride horses, so he would have really liked to be here today,” she said. “That’s OK, because we know he’s still watching.”

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