Summit County is working to save the junior livestock sale even as the county fair itself is in jeopardy
It appears that the annual Summit County Fair will not escape the coronavirus pandemic unscathed, as officials say large gatherings are unlikely to be allowed in the next few months.
But officials are working to keep one of the most important aspects of the fair alive, discussing at Wednesday’s County Council meeting alternatives for the junior livestock sale like moving the auction online.
The sale is a long-held tradition at the fair, which is traditionally held the first full week of August. This year, it’s scheduled Aug. 1-8. Organizers say the livestock sale teaches participants life skills like responsibility and persistence and puts some hard-earned money in their pockets.
Young people raise a show animal for the better part of a year, feeding and caring for it every day. The animals are then sold at auction during the County Fair, often with generous bids from county residents.
The discussion came while county councilors heard a staff proposal for how to cut an additional $2 million from the county’s budget in response to anticipated revenue shortfalls from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I think it’s really important that we figure out some way to continue the livestock show in some capacity,” Councilor Kim Carson said. “I know that money is incredibly important to those kids. A lot of them, that’s their college fund. And it gives them a project starting now.”
A representative of the junior livestock committee wrote in an email the volunteer-organized program has been going strong since 1968.
“Jr. Livestock is more than the sale,” the representative wrote. “The sale is a culmination of a year of work, education, tears, caring, and truly becoming an individual who knows how the world is supposed to work. The kids learn basic care of a living creature that is completely dependent on THEM! If the kids don’t do their job something directly suffers, if they do their job their animals thrive.”
Tyler Orgill is a Summit County native who now runs the fair and raised animals to be sold there when he was younger. He said he remembers watching his older siblings raise show animals and eagerly waiting for his turn. Sometimes it would be after dark when he got home, and he’d still have to go out and do the chores of raising a show animal, but the payoff was worth it.
“There were tears and a lot of complaining but each time it continued to teach me responsibility and care of the animals,” Orgill wrote in an email.
While the rides and concerts that are staples of the fair might be in jeopardy, officials said they’re pursuing ways to continue the county tradition.
“At best, we’re going to be modifying the fair tremendously,” said County Manager Tom Fisher. “I don’t know exactly what that means yet, but I think it’s gonna be greatly reduced as far as having public events. … We’ve already got people working on it.”
Orgill wrote that he would do everything he could to make sure the livestock sale, at the very least, happens this year.
“There are some events at the Fair that could be canceled and not have an effect on people and in five years would be forgotten that it never happened. The livestock sale is not one of these events,” Orgill wrote. “The cancellation of this event would be devastating to so many.”
The committee representative said the sale brings people together from all over the county to support youngsters.
“The auction is a time for young and old to gather, reminisce, teach youth, share in a common goal for all,” the committee representative wrote. “In such an unknown time it gives the youth and their families hope, something to work towards and aim for.”
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Summit County is inviting residents 40 and older to make a vaccine appointment.