The Northern International Livestock Exposition (NILE), Montana’s elite stock show, has been held in Billings since 1967. Dedicated to the promotion of livestock, agriculture education, and preserving the western way of life, the NILE has found a way to foster these pillars through a competitive, yet fun series of events and contests.
Set to run Oct. 2-18 this year, the NILE is now in its 53rd year, but due to the continuous COVID-19 pandemic, the show has had to make some accommodations. Even so, Jennifer Boka, NILE general manager, says exhibitors and spectators alike can still expect a quality stock show experience this fall.
The NILE will run for more days this year because all of the different COVID-induced requirements for 2020 have led the NILE to offer a “2.0 version” of the show. Some events will be held virtually, while others will be held in person, but at a different location.
“Keeping in mind the NILE’s mission of youth education and promotion of the western heritage, we really wanted to make sure we kept as many of our youth events, either in person or virtually, as possible. We will actually kick off the NILE this year on Oct. 2 with our NILE Merit Heifer Show and our Club Calf Show and Sale,” Boka stated.
This year, in order to keep youth exhibitors healthy and safe, the NILE’s Jr. Fed Livestock Shows will be held virtually. Exhibitors will enter their perspective fed goats, lambs, hogs and steers using videos and pictures. The judge will then evaluate those animals and sort the classes accordingly. It is a very non-traditional way to show Jr. fed livestock, but Boka says the NILE has gotten a chance to learn from other shows that have had to move to a virtual format this year because of COVID. Due to logistical restrictions, there will not be a Jr. Fed Livestock Sale this year at the NILE.
Other youth events scheduled to happen virtually this year include the livestock judging competition and the 4th Grade Ag Education Program.
Further changes to this year’s NILE include the physical location of all the events. This year, any in-person livestock shows and all the horse events will be held at the Miller’s Horse Palace, located just off the interstate between Laurel and Billings.
Renting MetraPark, the NILE’s traditional home, just wasn’t going to pencil out this year, Boka further explained. The depressed economy in the wake of the pandemic has caused its impacts with the NILE, such as reduced sponsorships, limited ticket sales and exhibitor entries this year due to social distancing requirements.
“The bottom line just doesn’t work when you have such a substantial contract fee in relation to the limited people you can have on the grounds,” she noted.
The NILE’s tradeshows, PRCA Rodeo, ranch rodeo and cattle breed shows have all had to be cancelled for this year, as well. Boka admits, planning this year’s NILE has not been easy, but overall, the stock show organization wanted to find a way to stay true to their mission in a cautious and safe manner.
“We can’t wait until things are normal again,” she said.
Although the plan is to have a regular running NILE stock show and rodeo come 2021, Boka says the changes for this year may not be all bad. Taking advantage of digital technology has allowed the NILE to expand certain programs, which is a true silver lining to the current situation.
“I think one thing people need to remember is that, even in times like this where we have to see major adaptations and change, there are positive things that come out of it,” she said.
The 2020 NILE may look a little different this year, but Boka still encourages spectators to safely check out this year’s offerings of club calves and horses. Both sales will be available to viewers either in person or online.
For more information on the 2020 NILE or to check out the updated schedule, please visit www.thenile.org.