LACOMB — Watching 12-year-old Kaden Holt maneuver one of his Hampshire crossbred pigs around the barnyard, there’s no doubt he’s a country boy who enjoys listening to country music.
In point of fact, the two barrows (castrated male pigs) he is going to show next week at the Linn County 4-H Fair are named after country music stars Luke Bryant and Blake Shelton.
Kaden will show his pigs live at the highly modified show, but he had the option of having them judged by video. He’s taking the changes in stride in the era of COVID-19.
“It will be different, but we’ll just roll with it,” Kaden said.
Kaden said that although he enjoys cattle — he should, since his mother, Kari, has been the fair’s beef superintendent for 18 years — he likes showing pigs because “they are easier to handle.”
This is Kaden’s third year in 4-H.
“I like spending time with my animals,” he said. “4-H is a lot of fun.”
Kaden and hundreds of other 4-H and FFA members won’t be able to snack on giant corndogs on a stick or elephant ears as big as car tires, but both Linn and Benton counties will hold virtual 4-H shows and livestock auctions this month.
There won’t be large crowds to cheer them on. No outside visitors are allowed at the events.
The COVID-19 cloud hung heavy over the county fairs this year, with officials considering whether they should be canceled entirely. But many 4-H club members are heavily invested in their livestock projects, especially the cattle showmen. They need to sell their steers soon.
4-H staff and volunteers in both counties decided to make the best of the situation and hold modified shows and livestock auctions.
Linn County will hold livestock judging and a virtual livestock auction next week. Projects in other disciplines, such as textiles and clothing or photography, were canceled.
Linn County 4-H members have the option of competing live in small groups or participating by video.
Benton County’s virtual shows will include everything from home economics to livestock, plus an online livestock auction.
“We took a survey of our volunteers about whether to have a virtual show for everything or the auction, and the results were 50-50,” Linn County’s Andrea Leao said. “We decided that our non-livestock programs will get a six-month lead on next year’s fair.”
In the case of livestock, some animals, such as steers, need to be sold now, so the virtual auction will proceed.
Each exhibitor will be allowed to have one parent with them during the live shows.
Everyone will have to wear a mask.
Some animals will be taken home after showing, while lambs and pigs will be kept at the fairgrounds and tended by volunteers.
In some classes, where an overall champion may be selected from more than one weight class, the winner of each class will be allowed to return for the championship round.
Livestock weigh-ins will be from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday.
Showing starts Monday with small animals. Shows will continue through Thursday of next week.
The virtual livestock auction bidding will begin Monday and run through noon on Saturday. It will operate much like an eBay auction, Leao said.
“If a bidder knows which project they want to support, they will be able to input that 4-H participant’s name and go right to that site,” Leao said.
Auction buyers may register now at www.lcyla.com. Members of the community can give add-ons to any youth through the auction website as well.
Carolyn Ashton said that in Benton County, 4-H youth can show any of their projects online, including a fashion review.
Benton County livestock will be weighed and tagged this Friday through Sunday, Ashton said.
“We won’t have any in-person activities, but we will have opportunities for projects from science and arts to livestock,” Ashton said. “We are looking at this as an opportunity to give our kids a positive youth development experience. These are the cards we were dealt, and now we have to make good from there.”
Ashton said student workers have created example videos that the 4-H members can use when developing their own videos for submission.
“We also have provided videos from the judges, which include comments on what they are looking for," Ashton said.
4-H member video uploads will be accepted through July 19.
The online auction will be held July 29-31.
To register as a buyer or to give add-ons to any youth, go to the Benton County Livestock Auction website at https://www.bentoncountylivestockauction.com/.
“We are excited to showcase the projects our kids have worked on all year,” Ashton said. “We have a tremendous partnership with the Benton County Livestock Auction Committee. We are all on the same page and are working together to make this a positive experience for all involved.”
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