ARCHIE, Mo. — There’s no question that this season of life looks a little different than any most can remember, and the same holds true for the county fairs, 4-H and FFA events and livestock breed association shows.
For Mackenzie Porter, the look and feel of her senior year of high school at Archie FFA, the interview process to serve as a Missouri FFA Association officer and graduation have all been far from what she imagined. Fortunately, she says, her show schedule has almost remained the same.
“We’ve (Mackenzie and her parents, Jeramy and Brenda Porter) been hitting the same shows we’ve hit in the past, but they have been a lot smaller” Porter says, “The only exception in our schedule is that we were planning to hit the club calf circuit this year and the majority of those shows have been canceled.”
One thing that has changed for Porter and her fellow showmen, however, is the concessions each exhibitor and family member are asked to make, with social distancing being at the forefront of those conversations.
“We have shown cattle in separate groups so that there aren’t so many of us in the ring at one time, and we aren’t going to be able to serve a meal before our premium show. But probably the biggest thing to adjust to this show season is the fact that we can’t shake the judge’s hand,” says Porter, who has shown through her high school FFA chapter for the past four years.
For those producing shows, on both local and national levels, the planning process has looked different, as well.
Jake Renner, member and youth activities coordinator for the American Gelbvieh Association, shares that the biggest challenge for his team of junior board members was the uncertainty.
“There were a lot of speed bumps and hurry-up-and-wait. On a typical show year, we will have the majority of the show planned in early April. That wasn’t the case this year,” Renner says.
“Our main objective is always health — of our members, of their families and of the communities they return home to after the show is over.”
At the beginning of July, 145 junior exhibitors and their families convened for a week at Springfield’s Ozark Empire Fair Grounds and Event Center to compete in the Route 66 Classic, which served as the American Gelbvieh Junior Association’s Junior Nationals, a location that had been on the Association’s calendar for three years.
“Our numbers were a down a little from what we were originally, and we did field several calls from families who were planning to attend and wanted to know what types of precautionary measures we were going to have in place,” says Renner.
Some of the precautions that were put into place were mandatory face masks during the team fitting competitions, and social distancing in the dining hall where to-go meals were offered in addition to adequately spaced seating.
Overall, Renner shares that the atmosphere of the show was one of positivity and gratitude.
“I think this year, more than most, people were just grateful to be doing something that they love.”