It starts outside in the crisp air.
Teams of draft horses -- magnificent animals groomed in regal style -- are gathered and prepared for competition.
The horses are calm, gentle giants that patiently await their chance in the ring.
They are surrounded by a group of workers who fuss over their beauty, check critical apparatus and ensure their best chance in the contest.
And then it's finally time to run.
Shielded by blinders, an unmistakable gleam of determination shines in their eyes.
Workmen raise a large metal door, folks run to clear the path and the hitch team -- beautiful draft horses weighing roughly 2,000 pounds each -- thunder into the building and head for the Pennsylvania Farm Show's large arena.
The horses, synchronized, pull a wagon and driver, often run close to the arena wall, zigzag through the competition area and are eventually made to stop while a judge evaluates their performance.
Many of the animals raise and shake their heads as if to say they want to run again.
Lined up, the draft horses display power and beauty that's simply breathtaking.
After the performance, they leave the ring with an innocent air of strength, grace and obvious will to get back to work.
Local competition results:
Berks County's Bee Tree Trail -- a crowd favorite for their whimsical creativity -- took home the Top Honors in the Commercial Hitch portion of Sunday’s Pennsylvania Farm Show.
Kristen Thomas, the 2012 Pennsylvania State Draft and Mule Association Princess, awarded the exhibitors with their top prizes.
The First Place Winners for Sunday’s Draft Horse Hitch were:
• 6-Horse Hitch – Ken and Karen Sandoe, Sunny Hill Farms, Myerstown, Lebanon County
• 4-Horse Hitch – Gerald Allebach, Windermere Farms, Spring Mills, Centre County
• Unicorn Hitch – Ken and Karen Sandoe, Sunny Hill Farms, Myerstown, Lebanon County
• Commercial Hitch – Dave Rohrbach, Bee Tree Trail, Shartlesville, Berks County
• Team Hitch – Melissa Allebach, Windermere Farms, Spring Mills, Centre County
• Youth Team Hitch – Abe Allebach, Windermere Farms, Spring Mills, Centre County
About the show:
The 2012 Pennsylvania Farm Show is the largest indoor agricultural event in the nation, featuring nearly 6,000 animals, 10,000 competitive exhibits and 300 commercial exhibitors.
The show runs Jan. 7 to 14 at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex and Expo Center in Harrisburg.
Admission is free and parking is $10.