By Chad Hobbs
This past Monday the Meade County Fair entered day two of its abbreviated schedule due to the pandemic regulations. As a lifelong attendee of the fair, it would be remiss not to say that it hardly seemed like it was fair week pulling into the parking lot. There was no bustle around the food booths, no carnival set up, the main arena had grass growing sporadically throughout it and to be honest, it felt more like pulling into a ghost town with the exception of a few randomly parked vehicles throughout the fairgrounds. It was almost as if I’d shown up at the wrong place, at the wrong time.
Thankfully, as I made my way around the arena and approached the livestock barns, that all quickly changed. Trucks with livestock trailers and vehicles suddenly came into my vision, but even then it was evident something was amiss. Welcome to 2020 is all that needed to be said.
It didn’t take long for that to disappear, though, once I was out of my vehicle. The hot July weather, consistent with fair time, quickly slapped me in the face, as a story line unfolded at the back of the fairgrounds much different from the front of the property. Meade County youth and their families were abuzz, preparing their hogs to be called for their turn at the show ring. It suddenly felt a little more like the fair, albeit different.
Usually the livestock shows up at the beginning of the week and stays for several days. Due to social distancing regulations along with gathering rules this year, each species has its day and nothing more. There would be no wash pens to prepare animals the day of the show. Contestants could not bring their animals onto the property until that morning and had to leave with their animal at the end of the show. This is the reality of this year. The hogs needed to be moved out so the facilities could be cleaned and sanitized to make way for the goats and sheep on Tuesday, which would get the same treatment to make way for the beef cattle on Wednesday.
Despite the logistical headache of it all for the fair board and the frustrations of many in the general public over their favored “events” being cancelled, it didn’t take long, walking around the show area Monday, to realize it was worth it in the end. This is, unfortunately, a year of sacrifice to say the least, but if anyone should benefit from small windows of normalcy, it should, after all, be the youth.
That is exactly what the fair board made happen this year, often at their own peril. One of the best county fairs in the state doesn’t just happen. It takes long hours of meetings, discussions, planning and hard work, not to mention a small army of volunteers, to make the show come together each year. Talking with many of the board members on site Monday, it was all too apparent the disappointment they felt for what wouldn’t be this year, along with the headache of dealing with a handful of unrealistic members of the community that would rather complain than have an ounce of decency or understanding.
That all dissipated once the youth began to be called to the arena. It all started to pay off for everyone involved. Anyone who can look at the smiles on that many children’s faces as they either walked their hog to the ring or prepared for their name to be called upon and fail to appreciate not only their joy but also the brief return to normalcy should be checked for a pulse.
I think it is safe to say that we have all tried to make sense of this year, but no group has struggled more than our children and teens. For many of them, all they know is this is a year that has taken everything from them, whether it was school, sports, showing livestock, or friendship, which is more important than anything to them, especially the teenagers.
Even as an adult, I would be lying if I didn’t admit, that while watching one class of the youngest children showing, I didn’t get lost watching a young girl, probably no older than six, driving a hog around the ring that was bigger than she was, and temporarily forget, for one of the few times in months, that there is a pandemic or a presidential election in November. For that brief moment, it was just a curly, blonde headed young girl, wearing her whip out on a hog as she drove it around the ring, learning the introductory course on showmanship. All was normal again in this upside down world we currently live in. Children were smiling and having fun. What else really matters?
This may not be the expected narrative on the 2020 Meade County Swine Show, but would you expect anything less this year. Every child and teenager was a winner that day, regardless of where they placed because for one of the rare moments this year that small group of 4-H and FFA members just got to be children and teens doing something they truly love. For that, my hat is off to the members of the fair board and all the volunteers who allowed these wonderful youngsters to have a moment of normal.
For those in our community who want to gripe and complain about any and everything, please just stop. The fair will lose money this year. Every county surrounding us canceled their fair this year. So the fact that ours was able to do anything is a miracle. I miss so much that is canceled from this year’s lineup too, but at least there is a lineup. Not to mention, no group has the time, work and money involved in a fair event like the youth and their animals. Many of them don’t care anything about sports, this is their life. It will also convert into life skills they can use well into their future. Most importantly, though, it allowed this group of kids to be kids for a rare moment in 2020.
Congratulations to Case Compton for his Overall Grand Champion Market hog and Cecilia Banks for her Overall Reserve Champion hog. The results for all classes and all species will be in next weeks Messenger along with coverage of the sheep, goat and beef cattle shows.