CANTON, Ohio – Some women call themselves golf widows, losing their husbands to the links during warm weather.
Vickie Seifert is a fair widow, losing her husband to the Stark County Fair steer barn – before, during and after fair week.
50-year 4-H’er. Tom Seifert started in 4-H 50 years ago, in 1954, and basically never quit. Oh, there was a little break after he finished his own 10-year 4-H run and before he and Vickie started their family.
But when his children got into club work in the 1970s, Seifert was right there with them, serving as an assistant club adviser.
As sons Steve, Chris and daughter Tammi developed their project animals, Seifert developed his leadership skills, and soon joined the junior fair beef committee. In 1983, he was voted committee president and he’s been at its helm ever since.
“I just stayed with it,” said Seifert, who’s more comfortable talking about the steers, the youth and his team than he is with his own volunteer work.
“I enjoy watching the children mature year after year,” he added. “It’s probably the best educational program that I know of.”
Keeping busy. Like the youth raising the market steers, Seifert, 58, puts in a lot of hours well before fair week. The fair days are long, but they’re just the culmination of several months of hard work.
Now retired from East Ohio Gas after 33 years, Seifert owns a free-choice mineral supplement business on the side. He also farmed in Jackson Township, then in North Lawrence, before selling his hogs in 1997 and moving to Dalton.
From December’s steer weigh-in and February’s all-county steer participants’ meeting through the winter quality assurance training sessions and March on-farm visitations, Seifert works with a solid team of volunteers to ensure the program runs smoothly.
“We’ve got a terrific committee and everybody does their thing,” he said. “I’m not the only one who’s been on it for a long time.”
At a showmanship clinic held each June, the actual fair showmanship judge attends and explains what he’s looking for and the youth get experience handling animals under his eye before it really counts.
Seifert makes the stall assignments, grouped by clubs, in mid-August and the week before the fair, the youth participate in the steer carcass show.
Hectic week. Fair week, Seifert’s at the fairgrounds each day by 6:30 a.m. He’s weighing animals, checking rosters, helping with Wednesday night’s small animal sale, making sure everything’s OK with the 120 head of steers, the exhibitors and parents.
Thursday is the “big day,” starting with the steer showmanship class at 8 a.m., followed by the live show at 1 p.m.
Friday, Seifert works with the marketing committee, which brings in brokers who check each steer and set a “buy-back” floor on that steer, if someone wants to help out the program and buy an animal, but not keep the steer.
Saturday is sale day – a long sale day – starting at 9 a.m. with the lambs, moving through the hogs and continuing with the steers at 6 p.m.
Behind the sale ring, Seifert works closely with Unizan bank and the clerk-volunteers, who process the registration and bids and checks by computer – a process that used to be done all by hand. It’s a huge improvement, Seifert says, even though the computer “crashes every year.”
In the wings. As each child goes through that sale ring with his animal, Seifert is watching in the wings.
“I think about every one of them,” he said of his “kids,” “and I think of the kids on the midway.
“I’ve been told by county judges and authorities, that ‘these kids down here, we don’t have their names on our books,'” Seifert said.
The program works, he added.
Looking back, Seifert says his own 4-H experience taught him the beef business, but also life lessons in handling competition, responsibility and friendship. And that’s what keeps him coming back.
“In the end,” he commented, “it doesn’t matter where you stand, it’s the education you get out of it.”
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