By Matt Reese
While the Ohio State Fair will not happen in 2020, the show will still go on for many of those exhibitors. Megan Wendt, with showpig.com and The Wendt Group, is one of around 50 volunteers working to put together the Ohio Youth Livestock Expo (OYLE) to provide Ohio State Fair junior exhibitors with a chance to hit the show ring this summer.
“The OYLE was put together pretty quickly when the Ohio State Fair announced its cancelation. A group of leaders from the summer jackpot series as well as the Ohio Cattlemen’s Association came together pretty quickly to provide a place for these kids in the state of Ohio to finish out their projects that most of them had already started. Once the decision came from the Ohio State Fair, we just jumped in to make sure there was something for these kids to be excited about and keep working with their animals to see the project through to completion,” Wendt said. “We are having four shows — a goat show, a sheep show, a beef show and a swine show — in two different locations. From July 25 through Aug. 4 in Darke County there will be shows for beef, lamb and goats and breeding animals. From Aug. 9 though 18 in Pickaway County we will be having four sessions of swine shows with showmanship, purebred gilts, cross and pure barrows with a grand and reserve overall, and a crossbred gilt show as well. We will be busy for about a three-week span there to get these animals shown.”
The effort has taken significant teamwork and coordination.
“Our first challenge was organizing the show in a way to keep everyone safe. We are very aware of the reasons why the Ohio State Fair made the decisions they did in terms of crowd sizes and the limitations of the realities they have to face. This is the first global pandemic for all of us. We are working behind the scenes to structure the show to make it safe and be a good story and not a contributor to the problem. We worked with county health departments and with individuals who were on the governor’s task force,” she said. “A second challenge is getting 50 volunteers to move in the same direction that have not really worked together before. A lot of us have met each other over the phone in the process of this. The benefits of the friendships that have been developed out of this already have been a huge blessing. We have the right people with the right hearts in the right spots and it is exciting to be a part of.”
In addition to manpower, the OYLE needs significant funds.
“We didn’t want to jump headfirst into fundraising before we knew we had venues in place and we had a schedule that was going to work. We hosted four auctions to raise funds for the award sponsorships and show arena sponsorships. A lot of breeders and businesses have stepped up to the plate to make this happen. We are not all the way there. We are about two thirds of the way to our goal. We have a handful of really good prospects out there still making decisions about what they can do,” Wendt said. “We are trying to send every child home with a check that covers their entry fees. We are trying to spread out money as deep as we can go and not be so top heavy. Our grands and reserves we are hoping to send home with a good-sized check, but it is not going to be State Fair level. We want to make sure this is about all of the exhibitors as much as possible. I have been very happy with how people have stepped up to support us and the kids.”
The shows will have some differences from past exhibitions.
“The small class sizes and social distancing will be similar to the fairs. The OH-Pigs circuit put together a pretty in depth list of regulations. If you are going to be watching, you can only watch when your child is in the ring and you have to wear a mask when you are in there. Some of our regulations are going to be tighter than a county fair,” Wendt said. “At this point we are not going to let the general public come in. It will be exhibitors and family and sponsors. We are bringing in a live webcasting company to broadcast the shows live for others to watch. I am hopeful we can open it up to the general public to come in by the time the shows roll around but that is not what we are thinking just yet.
“We have some different rules this year than what people may be used to seeing to make this event work more smoothly. At Pickaway County we are allowing people to show off of their trailers. We have about 80 trailer spots per session and those are available to the first people that sign up.”
The shows will include food vendors, top-notch animals and exhibitors and world-class judges.
“We are excited about the opportunity to bring everyone together and to celebrate what we know is awesome about agriculture in Ohio. The agricultural industry as a whole is a community and a family,” Wendt said. “We are connected in a lot of different ways and I have seen tremendous resilience throughout our community to pull together and be creative and determined not to give up on what we really believe in.”
Exhibitors can sign up through July 10. For more, visit www.theOYLE.com.