SIDNEY — A horse neighing. A turkey gobbling and a cow mooing. Normal sounds at the Shelby County Jr. Fair on Tuesday, but much quieter than in the past.
The horse arena was busy all day as four days of shows were completed in one day this year.
“It’s quite a bit different this year,” said Robert Watkins, of Sidney,, whose granddaughter, Alexia Graves, was competing with her horse, Princess. “I’ve had grandchildren showing livestock for more than 25 years at the fair. Alexia is in her last year at the fair. I’m very glad the fair board was able to do this for the kids.”
He said most people he’s seen have been abiding by the 6-foot social distancing requirements.
Graves is the daughter of Pamela and David Graves, of Sidney. Her mother talked about how important it was to have the junior fair this week.
“Everything for the horses is in one day,” Pamela said. “They did cut out some of the shows and condensed it into one day. It’s certainly different.
“Usually we camp out here all week,” she said. “We got here at 7:45 this morning (Tuesday) because she had to be check in by 8 a.m. We’ll be here all day. She has to stay until the last show even if she gets done before that.”
Pamela said those involved with showing horses were given a game plan of how to prepare and for fair week.
“They hardly had any work nights (at the fairgrounds),” said Pamela. “She did all her practicing at home and they did get in one work night.”
Alexia said she was disappointed that the entire fair couldn’t be held, especially since it’s her last year of showing. She was able to compete in seven classes. Last year she was in 10 classes.
“The fair just isn’t the same,” said Alexia. “We didn’t have our work nights every Monday at the fairgrounds. I did extra training at home. We couldn’t come to the fairgrounds this year (for training). “
Alexia said she will take a positive memory from the 2020 fair.
“Still being able to compete in the shows,” she said of her memory. “And also having the classes available that I wanted to do.”
Alexia was the grand champion in the pole bending show, reserve grand champion in the key hole show and reserve grand champion in the stakes show. She placed second in clover leaf barrels – senior and first in Western pleasure – senior. She is a member of the Fairlawn FFA and Equus Unlimited 4-H.
River Pistone, 11, son of Ken and Kimberly Pistone, competed with his turkey and fancy chickens at the fair. He is a member of Houston Livestock.
He said he got his chickens and turkey when they were chicks. He and his siblings, who also showed poultry at the fair, took care of their birds daily by feeding and watering them. They would also give them baths.
“My brother and sisters share the work,” said River, who showed turkeys at last year’s fair too.
“It’s very different this year,” said River. “It would be similar to last year’s if it wasn’t for the coronavirus. And this time, my sister Arrow is here. It’s her first time showing.”
This is his fourth year of show animals at the fair and his third year of showing chickens.
“This is the first time I’ve been out with other people because of the virus,” said River. “It’s a very odd experience. I’ve taken as many precautions as I can.”
River and his siblings are homeschool, so for them, school continued as normal.
“I had to get up really early to come to the fair today,” he said.
Porter Depinet, 15, son of Desiree and Joel Depinet, of Sidney, pulled double duty at the fair Tuesday. He’s co-chairman of the horse committee and he also was showing chickens.
“This year was more hectic,” said Porter. “I’m a member of the Junior Fair Board.”
So Tuesday morning, he was at the horse show helping. He left the show to prepare to show his chickens. When he was done, he went back to the horse show until it was over.
Porter said he’s learning the business end of fair week by being a member of the Junior Fair Board.
“The kids put in a lot of hard work,” said Desiree. “They had their animals and they raised them. They’ve been able to share with the public what they’ve done (with their animals.”
Judge Larry Lokai, of Urbana, came prepared to the fair with his face mask, gloves and good humor as he judged the poultry at the fair. Shelby County was the sixth fair he’s judged at this year and is signed up for 17 fairs.
“I only drink bottle water and I wipe the lid off before I open it. I also don’t eat fair food,” he said of precautions he takes every year at the fair.
Lokai said he has seen fewer animals in the shows this year.
“At some fairs, it’s 50% fewer animals,” he said.
One Indiana fair, he said, canceled the fair and then decided to do a junior fair. The fair was delayed for four weeks.
“The market animals were overweight,” he said. “It wasn’t the animals’ fault the fair was delayed. So I had to imagine what they would have looked like four weeks earlier.”
Lokai said he’s glad the 4-h and FFA members have been able to compete this week at the fair.
“These kids were robbed of three months of school. They were robbed of spring sports. They were robbed of summer sports. But they are able to show their animals.”
He said the youth who raised turkeys spent five months of their time preparing for the fair.
“I think they all gave a sigh of relief,” he said. “They were finally got to do something in 2020.”
Lokai said he was happy to see all the parents and grandparents at the poultry show.
“The grandparents are happy to see their grandkids get to do something positive, he said.
Lokai said his wife is “stressed” about his visits and judging at the fairs.
“I’m 78 and she’s 70,” he said. “When I get home she’ll ask if I social distance, did I shake hands with anyone?” he said.
A retired educator, Lokai was also a 4-H adviser for 30 years. He comes to every fair with little gifts for the exhibitors and parents.
“O want every kid to leave the ring with a smile on their face,” said Lokai, who is also the OSU Buckeyeman. “These little items help take their minds off being nervous and being afraid. It helps them relax.”
He hands out the items to parents to get them engaged in the show.
“I just want everyone to have fun,” he said.
Troy Smail, 16, son of Debbie and Kraig Smail, of Sidney, was busy showing his feeder calf at the fair. He’s a member of the Fairlawn FFA and had previously been in 4-H. He’s been showing animals at the fair since he was nine years old.
“It’s different this year,” said his mom, Debbie. “We’re not here as long as it’s only for one day. Last year, we brought our camper out on Friday, the feeder calf out on Saturday and then we stay until the following Saturday.
Debbie said the fair is more “laid back” this year. She knows some exhibitors chose not to participate this year because of the expense associated with raising a calf, dairy cow or steer.
“I miss seeing the kids walk through the barns and asking if they can pet the animal,” she said.
Troy said he missed seeing his friends and visiting with people this year.
“I also miss the concessions,” he said. “It was also strange bringing in the animals this morning.”
“it’s still been a wonderful experience for him,” said Debbie. “It’s kept the kids busy and their minds off what’s going on. You really appreciate your family more.”
There is no livestock auction at this year’s Jr. Fair. Donations can be made by going to the website https://www.shelbycojrfairsale.com/ until Aug. 15, 2020. Anyone who would like to make a donation in person can visit the Junior Fair Sale Committee barn from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the fairgrounds from now until Thursday, July 30, 2020.