Despite pandemic, county fairs and livestock shows go on for 4-H exhibitors

Like other 4-H youth, Gabriella Lambert of Oregon City submitted a showmanship video for for the Clackamas County 4-H Horse Fair in 2020.

County fairs and livestock shows are one opportunity for 4-H youth to demonstrate their knowledge and mastery in their project areas. The COVID-19 pandemic led to in-person cancellations and others that had to be postponed or transitioned to virtual events. Many 4-H members had purchased their market animals before or just after restrictions were enforced.

In response, Oregon 4-H faculty, staff and volunteers worked throughout the spring and summer to highlight the hard work of 4-H youth exhibitors and provide a quality educational fair experience in a healthy, safe environment. Some fairs and livestock shows were virtual, using video clips or videoconferencing for showmanship and software for auctions. Others held modified events with strict social-distancing and face-covering rules.

  • Benton County 4-H faculty and staff created a virtual show experience. Breed classes were modified and judges were coached on how to judge virtually. The show drew 228 youth participants – more than expected. The Lee Allen Youth Livestock Auction was livestreamed and earned the youths more than $418,000.
  • In Clackamas County, 4-H, through a partnership with the Clackamas County Junior Livestock Auction Committee and strong volunteer support, held an online livestock show and auction using multiple platforms, including Zoom, Google Forms and YouTube. The show and auction featured 170 participants and more than 200 animals. Static exhibits – which include art and photography, foods and flowers and plants – were entered and judged via Zoom. Also, 148 youth participated in a Virtual Horse Fair. Members submitted videos in eight performance classes and trained 4-H judges viewed and scored the videos remotely. Extension plans to use the videos for educational settings.
  • Gilliam County held a modified fair with limited spectators. Each 4-H animal science members was required to attend an informational Zoom meeting to cover all restrictions and modifications, and they were allowed to show their animals only in market classes. 4-H fair entries were only slightly lower compared to past years, and poultry numbers almost doubled. The livestock auction was almost a record, raising $107,569 for Gilliam County youth.
  • The Harney County Fair Board decided in early July not to allow 4-H at the fair. So, 4-H faculty and staff got creative. They held dog and llama shows on the Harney County Courthouse lawn and parking lot. A group of 4-H supporters hosted and conducted a virtual livestock auction for 4-H and FFA members. 4-H member exhibits were judged, photographed and shown on our YouTube channel and Facebook Live.
  • In Hood River County, which also held a modified fair, all 4-H members had a chance to exhibit their projects, and new technologies, including virtual registration and virtual auction that reduces a significant amount of data entry time for 4-H staff, will now be a consistent part of the fair program.
  • Livestock shows were livestreamed in Jefferson County. A web link was created with the title of each class and shared via the Jefferson County 4-H Facebook page for parents, grandparents, friends and public supporters to watch live. The average views per livestream were 180, and 922 views of the youth market auction.
  • Klamath County 4-H Extension worked with county commissioners and the local health department to hold an in-person youth livestock show and sale in which all health and safety protocols were strictly enforced. The event was closed to the public; only staff, participants, and limited family members attended. A safety team comprised of 4-H teen leaders made signs and markings throughout the fairgrounds to ensure everyone was socially distanced. Youths were also able to show their non-animal projects. The non-animal projects show drew 438 entries from 58 4-H members. The animal projects drew 406 participants.
  • Fluctuating COVID-19 prevalence in Morrow County resulted in significant last-minute cancellations and modifications of 4-H participation in the county fair. Four different versions of the fair were planned, shared and approved. The livestock exhibitors, who submitted videos for online judging, saw an average increase at auction of $300 per animal. The 87 animals in the auction hauled in $240,000.
  • In Polk County, large animal participants were able to have their breed show using pictures and videos. Judges placed the classes and then there were follow-up Zoom meetings with the youth and judges. Small animal exhibitors participated in one-on-one interviews with the judge via Zoom. The county also held contests such as food prep with the member preparing the dish at home while the judge watched via Zoom.
  • In Wheeler County, where COVID-19 prevalence was low throughout the summer, in-person project judging was held with strict health protocols. Project areas had specific dates and times and limited in-person viewing to immediate family only. The shows were streamed via Facebook Live so that family and friends could view online, and the market livestock auction was shown over Zoom. Overall sales increased by 46% over 2019. Several grandparents that hadn’t attended previously because they lived too far away saw, for the first time, their grandchildren show animals.