While the Kutztown Fair has been canceled due to coronavirus restrictions, the Kutztown Fair Association Board of Directors voted to host a Youth Show for dairy and livestock exhibitors in August.
“Many kids exhibit their animals several times over the summer. This summer, they have not had that opportunity, and for the oldest 4-H or FFA members, when this is their last year, the chance to walk the tanbark with their animals one last time is a huge milestone,” said Lolly Lesher, vice president of the Kutztown Fair Association Board.
“As a parent of a livestock youth and member of the fair board, we could not deny these kids that last chance. The senior members have been robbed of so much this spring and summer, this is one chance for them to experience that one last time,” she said.
Lesher explained that the Kutztown Fair has always been committed to helping agricultural youth explore and expand their livestock experiences.
“The animal side of the fair is the basis for having a fair,” said Lesher. “Once the COVID-19 hit and the fairs were canceled, the fair board worried about the youth and the investment they have made over the past 18 months in their livestock projects. The mantra was ‘what about the kids? What can we do to help the kids have a show and sale?’"
The Youth Show will allow the youth in Berks and Lehigh county that typically show their animals at the fair to still have a way to have their animals shown and then sold.
“Many farm families invest thousands and thousands of dollars in genetics, feed, housing, bedding and veterinary care for these animals. This will allow them to show and sell their animals and then reinvest for next year,” Lesher said.
Alice Kamp, a 4-H Swine Club leader and a Berks County 4-H alumni, said this is a topic dear to her heart. Her son, Evan, is a last year 4-Her, so this is his last chance to get into the show ring and do what he loves.
"These are a great group of kids who are leaders, not followers. They will be highly successful in their future endeavors, because 4-H has paved the way to teach them how to succeed," said Kamp.
Kamp explained that the Beef Club members, which is about 25 youth, started their year last October purchasing their projects.
"There was no COVID-19 fear at that time and never a thought that their 4-H year will end in March," said Kamp. "We all had hopes the year would get back to normal. 4-Hers hope for the best and try to make things happen. They don't just give up, we try to make things happen."
The Dairy Beef kids purchased their projects in January and those in the livestock clubs had their animals by April, with the Swine Club kids getting their projects in May.
"By having this show, it is giving the youth the chance to show their animals in the show ring. Although the midway will not be open, and there will not be the usual crowds of people observing, they are so happy to be able to show," said Kamp.
The Youth Show, open to youth eligible for 4-H and FFA, will begin Aug. 12 and conclude with the Livestock Sale on Saturday, Aug. 17 at the Kutztown Fairgrounds. The event follows CDC guidelines and takes numerous precautions such as masks and social distancing. The Youth Show will be closed to the public.
“The response has been tremendous,” said Lesher. “The community recognizes the hard work and devotion these kids have for their animals. And the youth themselves are stepping up to help with the work to get it done.”
The Kutztown Fair Association will not be receiving state funding this year so the board hopes monetary contributions will help cover expenses as well as provide premiums for the youth winners.
“Community members can help by making a monetary contribution to help pay for the expenses to host this event,” said Lesher.
Along with the show, a sale at the end of the week will be held for the youth to sell their animals.
"The community has the opportunity to help these great kids. The youth are instructed to contact local businesses (restaurants, banks, grocery stores, feed companies, electric co, fuel co, etc) to provide information and request they attend the sale to support the youth," said Kamp. "Although local businesses were severely affected by the COVID-19 crisis, the financial support provided to the youth can be considered advertising, and can still be used as a tax deduction."
Kamp said that there has been great support in sponsors for the event to take place.
"The hard part will be for support for the sale on Saturday. The kids will still get market price for the animals as they go through the ring: however, many of these kids use the money above and beyond to save for a vehicle, college fund, or to help purchase animals for the next year along with breeding stock to start their own herd," said Kamp.
They hope for a successful show and sale for all of the kids, but mostly the new members and the members aging out.
"8-year-olds don't understand what's going on, they want to play with their animals and enjoy a few days of having people tell them how cute they are. The seniors, well they spent the last 10 years waiting for this one last event. We are going to do our best to make it memorable and successful for all," said Kamp.
Checks can be sent to the Kutztown Fair, PO Box 6 Kutztown PA 19530. They can reach out and purchase one of the animals offered for sale, and fill their freezer with fresh local protein. Purchasing an animal takes some coordination to get it to a packer, so if anyone is interested in this, please contact the Ag Committee of the Fair for more details, said Lesher.
The Kutztown Fair Association Board is also working with other fair vendors to host a Kutztown Fair Food Night.
“The plans are not yet complete, but there may be opportunity to come to the fair and purchase some of your favorite fair foods. Watch for more details and information on this, so that the Grange, Optimist Club, fire company and more can recoup some of their income,” said Lesher.
Follow the Kutztown Fair on Facebook and online at https://kutztownfair.com/.