In my book of favorite events, a county fair is a close second to Christmas.
County fairs bring families together, the food is plentiful, and the “gift” is the learning experience that youth are provided through 4-H and FFA.
My 4-H fair experiences began in Clark County showing Jerseys. There was lots of competition in each class and making it to the state fair was a dream. Win, place, or show, I was fortunate to make the trip many times.
While there, I met many dairy youth showing all breeds of cattle. This was an added benefit and many of those friendships remain fast and true to this day.
The fact remains that dairy cattle shows, at the county and state fair level, have changed significantly. What are we doing to promote involvement? As anybody knows who has driven a stick-shift, you’ll burn up the engine if you fail to shift gears.
In today’s challenging marketplace, that’s the last thing we need. If enthusiasm does not “fuel” the engine, we won’t even have the opportunity to start the engine.
At some junior shows in less dairy-oriented counties, a single breed entry can hardly make a turn around the ring before a placing is given. The ringsides
can be minimal and it takes coordination to have classes announced for a timely entrance. Perhaps the value of the learning experience is diminished.
For youth, showmanship classes are the real “carrot.” All breeds compete with one another. The crowd is much larger and more involved. For the judge, it is the golden moment to interact and do some teaching.
Although those showing are under pressure, all the rest are entertained as the winner is decided upon. It is a drama and a mystery that unfolds before the onlookers. So why not shift gears and provide this dimension for the rest of the shows?
Give those kids an experience of how to pull into line, how to set up their animal quickly and efficiently, and to polish their skills for, possibly, the state fair.
If your county does not have significant dairy numbers, shift gears. Why not try a supreme dairy breed show? Increase the premiums, look for new donors, promote it and make many calls to encourage breeders to come.
However, remember to “fuel up” with enthusiasm. Attempt to make it a real show with more pizzazz. Select a familiar face to be the judge and add some special extras.
You just may discover that the excitement will return. Be careful to promote that exhibitors are competing with one another and not against each other.
Madison County has been working on this concept for two years. Their slogan says: Not just another county fairy show.
They do a special mailing and the premiums are high. The chairman is Dale Frenz at FrenzFarms@aol.com. He can share the success and the stories of their growing pains.
I realize that this is not a new idea, but we may need to revisit the concept in these changing times. The key to success is to find out what works best for your area.
For 2009, it is something to think about. If you are in neutral, it might be wise to learn how to shift those gears. Develop a plan and you will quickly prove that the journey is just as important as the destination.