The Show Must Go On

For months, life has been uncertain. COVID-19 (we’d all be fine never hearing that word again) has wreaked havoc on our world. In many ways, we have come to expect events to be canceled and life to be anything but normal. For many of us, it is just easier not to hope.

That’s not to say all hope is gone. When it comes to the livestock show community, hope abounds. Even before the N.C. State Fair announced that they intended “to offer a modified livestock show program for junior competitors” and encouraged “youth livestock exhibitors to continue working with their projects to be ready for the show ring this fall,” many families had already purchased and started working with livestock projects in the hopes that the show would go on.

“In a time where so much is not normal for kids—school, events, sports—we wanted to be able to provide some semblance of normalcy by having the junior livestock shows at the N.C. State Fair,” said Neil Bowman, Livestock Marketing with the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

For many show families providing normalcy for their children is important, but it is also about continuing what they started.

“For us, it was about keeping things as normal as possible during these uncertain times,” said Nicole Cox, a show mom of two. “It was also about continuing lessons of responsibility, hard work, dedication, and resilience in our children.”

Agriculture and youth livestock events are at the heart of the N.C. State Fair, and the fair is at the heart of so many livestock families.

Jessie Hinnant, a show mom whose kids have shown at State Fair and plan to this year too, said, “we show because it’s what my kiddos love, especially at the State Fair because that’s where they got started!”

The Hinnant family isn’t the only ones who shares these sentiments. Other stock show parents talked about the need to make memories and the importance of learning lessons. For these stock show kids it is a passion and a lifestyle, but the common thread they all said was because they simply love it.

“My child loves to be at a show, not just to be in the ring with her animals, but to be with her fellow livestock peers,” said Heather Ballance-Brown.

Long-time showman Cheyenne Pike said, “I want to show because I love the show industry, no matter what. It’s what I’ve done for 12 years, and what I hope to continue to do.”

It is that love of livestock, showing, and the N.C. State Fair that gives hope in so many people’s hearts.

It is the love that is the reason for the significant time and financial commitment that is being made.

It is the love that is why so many are working hard to make sure the show can happen.

It is the love that pushes sponsors to commit to supporting the show and the youth, despite it all.

It is the love that makes youth spend time in the barn day after day preparing for the show.

It is the love that makes it possible for the show to go on.

It is also the love of the show that has caused some heartbreak. Some will not be at the State Fair Show. Open shows have been canceled. This was not an easy decision, but one that ensures youth can show. I’d say that’s love.

Some families will not be showing because despite loving the show, finances, time, risk…they can’t afford it. For their family’s health and stability, they will not be showing, and I’d say that’s love too.

What many do not realize about showing livestock, is it is more than a competition. It is an act of love. From tailored diets to every brushstroke, these animals are loved on so much. From feed bills to purchase costs, the financial commitment can only be explained by love. The love is seen in all the relationships made at shows. It’s seen in the dedication of parents, youth, extension agents, judges, sponsors, breeders, and volunteers.

Thank you to all those working so hard to plan, pivot, and coordinate all the details of the livestock shows. Thank you for making the effort for the youth. Thank you for being so dedicated to making the shows safe. Thank you for making hard decisions.

“Our focus is on the kids. The N.C. State Fair is the culmination of these kids’ hard work and we want to provide them with an outlet to highlight their livestock projects and their efforts. We want to do that safely which means some changes, but we are doing all we can to make sure they can show,” said Bowman.

It is love and hope that has allowed us to come this far. It is love and hope that is going to make the show go on. It is love and hope that is going to help all of us overcome the many trials 2020 has brought.

There are a lot of unknowns. The show won’t be normal. There have and will continue to be changes. However, one thing hasn’t changed—the love of the show. And, it’s that love that fills hearts with hope, courage, and determination to make sure that the show goes on.

For the show to go on, donations are needed. If you are interested in supporting the junior livestock shows at the NC State Fair, contact Neil Bowman at 919-270-7094 or email at neil.bowman@ncagr.gov. All levels of donations are welcomed and so appreciated.

About Marisa Linton See

Marisa grew up showing and raising livestock in NC. She has shown animals at the N.C. State Fair for 15 years and is a past youth livestock scholarship recipient. She is an N.C. State University graduate, agricultural photographer and blogger.

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