SIDNEY – With so much of her life having been disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, Summer Oaks was grateful for the opportunity to compete Wednesday at the Shelby County Junior Fair swine showmanship competition.
“To have my last showmanship and my last show has meant the world to me,” the 18-year-old from Anna said.
Oaks, the daughter of Rose Riethman, saw her senior prom canceled earlier this year and had her high school graduation ceremony altered because of the pandemic. She was very concerned she might not have a final chance to compete at the Shelby County Fair. She got the opportunity, though, and won the senior swine showmanship category.
“It was very humbling,” said Oaks, who is a member of Upper Valley Career Center FFA. “My family is very high on showmanship so to win it makes me very proud.
“With COVID going on, I didn’t really think I was going to be able to have the success that I am having right now. So to actually have this fair and to do showmanship makes me very happy.”
Oaks credited her uncle Brian Riethman for helping her become skilled in showing.
The help of family also was important to 16-year-old John Smock, of Botkins, who was named the showman of showmen for the 2020 Junior Fair swine show. The son of Phil and MaryLee Smock credited his brothers with helping him prepare for the show.
“Pretty relieving,” Smock, a member of Botkins Livestock, said of winning the showman of showmen title, the second time he’s won it. “It was pretty exciting and had me nervous all day anticipating it.”
Aven Zimpfer, a 14-year-old from Anna, won the intermediate swine showmanship title. The son of Tim and Raci Zimpfer said he was a little stressed out at the beginning of the show but overcame his nerves and won a championship.
“I always thought I had the skills to do it,” the member of Anna Livestock said.
Bode Ruhenkamp, an 11-year-old from Fort Loramie, won the junior swine showmanship competition. The son of Bryan and Kim Ruhenkamp said he spent a lot of time preparing for the show after a disappointing performance last year.
“Last year I got disappointed in myself that I didn’t do good,” the member of Fort Loramie Livestock said. “I encouraged myself to work better this year, and it paid off.”
While they would have preferred a full fair, swine competitors were thankful that they still got to show their animals this year.
“I’m thrilled that I still get to show my animals that I’ve worked with all year, but it’s definitely saddening that you don’t get to do all the extra fun activities outside of the showing part,” Smock said.
Because attendance at this year’s fair was only open to exhibitors and a limited number of guests, the Junior Fair set up internet broadcasts of shows so people could watch remotely.
“It’s going really well,” Shelby County Extension Educator Cassie Dietrich said about the live streams. “People seem to appreciate that we’ve offered it.”
Approximately 20-30 people watched the smaller shows, Dietrich said. Anticipating a larger audience for the swine show, the Shelby County Pork Producers hired Walton Webcasting to live stream Wednesday’s competition.
“We’re just glad we have something to help out, promote the kids,” said Grant Davis, one of the owners of Walton Webcasting.
Walton Webcasting, based out of Walton, Indiana, was founded 10 years ago as a local sports webcasting company. It has since shifted its focus, and four or five years ago began to broadcast livestock shows almost exclusively.
The company now produces approximately 350 shows a year across the entire United States on www.waltonwebcasting.com and has seen increased interest in its services during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The feedback that we’ve received has been outstanding and drives us,” Davis said.
Davis expects some fairs that broadcast shows this year because of the pandemic will continue to offer webcasting in future years now that they’ve seen its potential.
For the shows it produced, the Shelby County Junior Fair Board purchased cameras and probably will continue to produce live streams in future years, Dietrich said.
Members of Boy Scout Troop 97 also have been busy at the fair. Though they’re not selling ice to vendors, members of the troop do have a water/soft drink stand close to the arenas. They were invited to the fair by the fair board.
“This is a big fundraiser for us — this and the mulch sale,” Scout Devan Wiford said.
Even though the attendance is smaller this year, Wiford said those attending the fair are supporting the Scouts’ booth.
“We seem to be making quite a bit of money,” Wiford said.
The troop has 35 members and each had the opportunity to work at the fair.
Helping at the stand was Wiford’s sister, Ainsley, who is a member of the first Boy Scout troop in the county which has girl members. They currently have four members. She said she had watched her brother be a member of Boy Scouts and decided she wanted to be a Boy Scout, too.
Troop 97 leaders are Tom Frantz, Rod Wiford, Tim Musser, Cindy Biddle and Steve Berton.
Reach the writer at firstname.lastname@example.org or 937-538-4824. Melanie Speicher contributed to this story.