Junior Livestock Show must go on

TAYLOR COUNTY— With the announcement that the Taylor County Fair Board had made the difficult decision to cancel the 2020 Taylor County Fair came many questions and concerns from those who participant in the annual Junior Livestock Show. Luckily, officials are saying the show will go on, even if it must be conducted in a nontraditional manner.

As COVID-19 continues to linger over the nation, many traditional summertime events are being forced to cancel or postpone. The Taylor County Fair is just another one of those events that for the safety of all of those involved in the planning, as well as of the general public, will not be happening this year.

However, as one of the biggest attractions to the fair, Taylor County Fair Board of Directors member, John Murray shared that officials are working endlessly, exploring all options, to see that the kids who have worked so hard for months get the opportunity to show their animals.

“As of now, we do not have anything rock solid as far as plans for the show go,” he noted. “But, we will have a show and sale of some sort. This (COVID-19) is an ever-changing situation as are the regulations that surround the pandemic. At this point we are not sure just what August will bring, but we do have several different scenarios being discussed.”

Murray shared that the board developed six possible scenarios prior to the cancellation of the fair. The first, which was operating as usual was, of course, checked off the list once members decided to forego hosting this year’s event.

He then explained that other possible scenarios involve utilizing today’s modern technology.

“It would be ideal for us to be able to run on the originally planned schedule that coincided with the fair, allowing the kids to come into the barns and show their animals, and be able to invite the public, if regulations allow,” Murray expressed.

While on the opposite end of the spectrum, if regulations continue to become more restrictive with the recent spike, he revealed that virtual programming will be employed.

According to Murray, some of the options that are being taken into consideration are using a software, that has added components that will allow for the show, as well as the sale, to be held completely virtually.

A virtual showing and sale would mean that those wishing to participate would produce a recording of them handling their animal of choice from their own farms to be uploaded and submitted for judging.

Once the livestock videos are viewed and judged, the results along with photos and descriptions would be posted online for bidding.

Murray voiced some concerns with this option commenting on the fact that in the past, situations have arose where a child could not be photographed or recorded.

“Of course we would need permission from them and from parents allowing us to post their recordings for public viewing,” he added. “If we do have a case such as that, we will still work to make sure every child that wishes to will be able to participate and have their livestock bid on.”

An additional option would be allowing participants to show their animals at the barns and be judged in person, however the public would not be permitted and the showing would be streamed on a platform such as Facebook live for the community to view.

Another difficult aspect of a virtual show would be judging the animal itself.

“It would be extremely difficult for judges to properly assess the animals based on a video,” Murray said.

“The reality is, that we may only be able to judge on showmanship,’ he continued. “But again we are exploring every possible option.”

He also revealed that while there is no concrete plan just yet, he believes that the show will still take place over the course of dates originally slated for the event. Although these dates may overlap with the start of the school year, Murray said changing dates could cause some issues with the two slaughter houses that are used for the sale.

“Another aspect of this, and trying to move it around to accommodate everyone, is that with the current meat shortage, our slaughter houses are just overrun. They have time allotted for the show in its original dates, so that may be what we have to stick to,” stated Murray.

He once again reiterated that their hope is to be able to host the show as normal as possible, but repeated that moving forward with any plans for the Junior Livestock Show’s fate is contingent on regulations that are in place, and not just on state regulations.

Murray disclosed that not only will they be operating under the guidance of regulations handed down from the state, but also has guidelines from WVU, the Grafton-Taylor County Health Department and the Taylor County Board of Education.

“We want to be thorough, we want to keep everyone healthy and safe, but still offer this opportunity to these FFA and 4-H kids who have worked so hard for months on end,” he announced.

And that hard work put in by those who have used their time to raise their livestock is exactly the driving force behind continuing on with the show even if it is held virtually.

“These kids are great. They have spent months with these animals and have a lot of money tied up in them. It is important to us that no one hit a hard time financially because of this and it is also very important to us that they still receive the educational benefits that this event provides. We just can’t walk away from that. It wouldn’t be fair to the kids,” Murray declared.

While planning is still in the preliminary stages, Murray did shared that more planning will be taking place soon, and an official plan should be released at the end of July or beginning of August.

Be sure to stick with the Mountain Statesman for further updates on the developing event.


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