Top of Iowa
Lyle Miller shares impact of winning International Livestock Show
When Lyle Miller of Osceola heard the Top of Iowa Sirloin Steak celebrated its 50th anniversary this year, he realized it had also been 50 years since his own steer named "Top of Iowa" gained international fame.
On Nov. 27, 1962, Miller's 975-pound yearling Angus became the grand-champion winner at the International Livestock Show in the Chicago Amphitheater.
Approximately 7,000 people watched Miller take the top honor of more than 700 entries.
During that same year, the Iowa beef industry held a "Name the Greatest Steak" contest and the name Top of Iowa Sirloin was chosen out of more than 4,000 entries.
When Miller took his steer to Chicago in 1962, reporters came up to ask what the name of the animal was.
"Well, I had no name," Miller said, "but anyhow, I had a friend that was the head of the Iowa Angus Association, and he whispered to me, 'Top of Iowa.' … That's how it all happened."
At the Chicago show, Miller faced some tough competition. Colleges and universities even entered steers into the show. Iowa State University had won the grand champion honor the year before.
"Chicago at that time was called the grandaddy of livestock shows because they had the most entries and everybody wanted to try to win," Miller said.
There were 109 entries in Miller's class, and 700 overall. Even though the show was held close to Thanksgiving, the public always made the journey to see the best compete with the best.
"People would come from the east, from the west, south, they all congregated there," Miller said.
According to Miller, it was fun to win grand champion because the Chicago show was the most prestigious show for livestock, at that time.
After the show in 1962, the people in Osceola organized a great homecoming for Miller, his wife Shirley and their family. Miller said he was appreciative of everything the city did.
On Dec. 2, 1962, a cavalcade of 100 cars met the Miller family at the airport in Osceola. The high-school band led a parade around the square and a stand was set up in front of Robinson's True Value.
More than 800 people were in attendance for the special occasion including then Iowa Secretary of Agriculture L.B. Liddy, Gail Danielson of the Iowa Beef Producers and many other local dignitaries.
The Miller family was presented with a gold key to the city.
The next year, the Iowa Cattlemen's Association flew Miller to the Republican National Convention in San Francisco. His steer was promoted as the "Top of Iowa."
The trip was sponsored by Iowa Cattlemen, Clarke County Cattlemen and Osceola Chamber of Commerce.
The fame Miller and his family received was immense.
Miller's wife Shirley became one of the best cattle groomers on the show circuit. Actor John Wayne hired the Millers to groom cattle at his ranch near Casa Grande, Ariz., and baseball player Mickey Mantle even received livestock services from the Millers.
Fifty years after winning in Chicago, Miller wanted to let the city of Osceola know just how appreciative of all the support his family received, including the homecoming celebration in 1962.
"We were glad that they did that," Miller said. "It was a lot of fun."
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