For most people, the fair is a chance to buy a corndog, play midway games, treat kids to some rides and maybe catch an arena show.
For some young livestock producers, the fair is so much more than that: It’s a chance to demonstrate the hard work they do quietly throughout the year while gaining important education and experience in the show ring.
The Webster County Fair Board's Livestock Committee understood the consequences for young producers when they made the difficult decision to cancel the 2020 edition of the fair, but they were determined to find a safe, socially distanced way for the livestock shows, at least, to go on.
On Friday and Saturday, the Marshfield Junior Livestock Show took place in the Brooks Arena on the fairgrounds. An event that is the favorite of many fairgoers, the bottle-calf show, kicked off the events on Friday, with the dairy and goat shows following. On Saturday, the beef and sheep shows took to the ring.
The main organizers of the show included the trio of Justin Cron and Tanner Koenig, Marshfield High School agriculture teachers, and Kyle Whittaker, who recently retired from teaching at Marshfield High School to become a Webster County University of Missouri Extension agent.
Cron said that giving youth a chance to show their animals was very important to the board.
"People don't realize how much time it takes to get ready for showing," he said. "Having an opportunity show their hard work and time is important. We needed to give them that opportunity."
Experienced judges offer comments to the participants before ranking the animals in the ring. "The lessons that they learn through showing is evidenced," Cron said. Among the lessons of raising livestock are the establishment of a strong work ethic and experience in the proper care of animals, he said.
"We need to keep young people involved in agriculture to maintain it," Cron said. "This plants the seeds for them to stay involved in agriculture, and that benefits us all."
He concluded, "This is what the future of Marshfield agriculture is. We're here."
Koenig agreed. "Coming out and showing is kind of the reward to all the hard work they put in," he said.
And the lessons of raising animals apply to all aspects of life, according to Koenig. "It gives them responsibility to grow up and make good use of time," he said.
One of the participants, Taylor Whitehead, left the event with a pair of ribbons for junior champion Holstein and supreme champion heifer.
"It felt really great to get the heifers out this year," she said.
Whitney Yerina, who showed the supreme champion cow with her Guernsey, and also captured top senior showmanship honors, agreed. "I was pretty disappointed when the fair was canceled," she said. "I saw this as an opportunity to be able to show my cows at a well-put-together show."
Whittaker addressed the crowd during Saturday's beef show, saying, "Welcome to the Marshfield Junior Livestock Show. We hope that this is the last one we'll ever have to have."
He explained that the Livestock Committee just wanted to provide a safe place for young people to exhibit.
"We ask that you come back next year for the Webster County Fair," he said.