OTTAWA — Bidders representing businesses throughout Putnam County purchased livestock sight unseen Thursday during one of the more unusual Junior Fair livestock sales in the long history of that county’s annual agricultural fair.
With the fate of this year’s fair unknown until just two weeks earlier due to the lingering novel coronavirus, this year’s event was scaled back in several ways. Unlike previous livestock auctions, no animals entered the show ring this year. Only Junior Fair exhibitors stood before bidders, some holding placards denoting they had exhibited a grand champion.
Bidders were not deterred. Matt Roethlisberger, representing Jennings-Gomer Equity, said it was perhaps more important this year than ever before to show support for the youngsters for the difficulties they had endured during their difficult year.
Jason Hedrick has been an Ohio State University 4-H educator in Putnam County for more than two decades. He said he can appreciate the difficulties presented to 4-Hers during the pandemic and added that he was pleased with the dedication exhibited by those youngsters.
“The kids had a lot to deal with,” Hedrick said. “Because our fair is so early in the season, in many cases they were doing their school work online at home while at the same time trying to do their project work without the benefit of club meetings. They had a little online overload, but I think they did really well.”
Paige Meyer, a seven-year member of the O-G High Risers 4-H club, agreed it was challenging to keep up with all her responsibilities.
“Some nights I had to skip out on going to the barn because I had to do my school work,” said Meyer, who exhibited three hogs at this year’s fair.
Her brother, Cody, exhibited the grand champion barrow at the fair and also served as the Junior Fair king.
Leaving their animals behind in the barns, livestock exhibitors this year were called out alphabetically, according to their last names, with all members of individual families presenting themselves to bidders.
Cody, who participated this year in his 10th and final year in 4-H, stood nervously alongside his sister during the awkward bidding process Thursday morning, but joked afterward that perhaps it was a good thing he was not required to bring one of his three hogs into the show ring.
“He’s not that friendly around people,” Meyer said.
Hedrick said that despite the COVID-19 pandemic, participation in 4-H was down only slightly this year with more than 1,200 projects entered. Livestock entries were down only about 5%, he said.
“We are a face-to-face program, so it was a challenge this year. But we are ready to go back to normal as soon as possible.”