More than 100 people were in the air-conditioned confines of the Five Points Bank Livestock Arena at Fonner Park Saturday for the opening of the Hall County Fair’s 4-H Beef Show.
Megan Knuth, 4-H youth development specialist for the Hall County Cooperative Extension Service, said despite the limitations that the health department put on the fair this year because of the coronavirus pandemic, the number of beef entries was strong and consistent compared to previous years.
“The only difference is that we are doing it in one day, as we usually had the showmanship competition on Friday night. To fit it in with the directed health measures, we moved it all in one day.”
Each day of the fair featured a different livestock show. After the day’s show was over, the animals were removed from the barns for the next day’s entries to arrive.
Knuth said despite the health restrictions put on the Hall County Fair this year, “the kids have been great.”
“They are really excited to come and showcase their animals,” she said.
This year’s Hall County Fair was restricted to the 4-H livestock shows. The 4-H static exhibits were displayed earlier in the month at College Park.
“They are a little bummed that they don’t get to keep their animals at the fairgrounds and get to spend time with each other all through the week, but they have been excited to be here,” Knuth said.
Today is the last day of the fair with the round-robin competition in the morning and the 4-H auction in the afternoon.
“We may not have all the things that we normally have, but we still have the heart of the fair,” Knuth said.
She said the fair is a success, though virus health restrictions have limited many of the activities, because of a strong core of 4-H youths, their parents and the many volunteers who have helped with the 4-H program and the county fair.
“We can’t thank our volunteers and our Hall County Fair Board enough as they have been amazing and awesome,” Knuth said.
A good example of that core of 4-H’ers, their families and the volunteers could be found with the Hovie family.
Brother and sister Zack and Reagan Hovie were showing their animals at Saturday’s 4-H Beef Show. Zack, 15, and Reagan, 10, are both veterans of showing livestock at the Hall County Fair. Both started showing animals at the age of 4. They are both members of the 4-H Trail Brazers Club.
They live on a farm in Hall County and have been around livestock all of their lives.
Zack said both friends and family influenced him to show livestock.
“It is actually pretty fun,” he said.
When asked what she likes best about showing her cattle Reagan said it is “training them to be good and walk and brush them off and wash them.”
Reagan, who weighs less than 100 pounds, said she has never had any problems handling a 1,200-pound animal.
Zack said being able to handle such a large animal only comes from experience. That is the kind of experience Reagan talked about, working with their animals every day and developing a trust and relationship so the animal and its youthful handler are comfortable around each other.
He said he always has liked showing beef, and winning trophies from showing his animals in the show ring is also pretty special, especially after all the hours spent working with their animals.
“You get pretty hyped up winning a few trophies and you want to do it next year and you want to win more,” Zack said.
Zack and Reagan both showed cattle and participated in the showmanship competition and market beef competition Saturday. They both showed hogs on Wednesday. Reagan also showed a bucket calf on Friday.
Their father, Nate Hovie, said all four of his children have been in 4-H. He and his wife have two older daughters who showed at the Hall County Fair. All of his children began showing at the fair at the age of 4 as 4-H Clover Kids.
Hovie compared getting his children involved in 4-H and having livestock projects to the importance of doing chores, an everyday task that’s vital for anyone living on a farm or ranch.
“They take care of their animals basically nine months out of the year,” he said. “They work with them, pay attention and learn how to feed them — the basics of keeping an animal.”
Hovie said the 4-H program is like an agriculturalist’s apprenticeship program. The hands-on, everyday experience of working with livestock allows the children to follow the animals’ progress as they grow. It is that familiarity with their animals that not only prepares them for the show ring, but also a possible career in agriculture.
Hovie, who was a 4-H’er as a youth, said the program helps their kids learn responsibility, commitment and self-confidence, all important skills for the children to learn as they enter adulthood and to have to take on a career.
“It gives them a sense of ownership,” he said. “They always say, ‘My calf.’ They are the ones taking care of it.”
Both Hovie and his wife, Rachel, are involved in their children’s club as leaders.
“We talked about having the kids involved in 4-H and going to the fair when they were really little,” he said. “The fair was something we always enjoyed even when it was over at the Big Red Barn. We would have them in a stroller and stroll them through looking at stuff, thinking that they would be doing this in a few years.”
And with the coronavirus pandemic, Hovie said, 4-H teaches another vital lesson especially important for agriculturalists — the animals have to be taken care of regardless.
“They still had responsibilities to do,” he said. “Even if there wasn’t a fair, we still have responsibilities to get these animals where they needed to be finish-wise. We are in it the whole way through.”
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