While COVID-19 has forced the Grant County Fair Aug. 12-15 to contort and constrict to meet the state’s guidelines to carry on this year, the sheep, steer, and goats have no idea the 111th year of the Grant County tradition will look very different than year’s past.
Meanwhile, 4-H students are preparing their animals and making adjustments to compete in the spaced-out, modified event in a year that looks like no other.
On July 24, 4-H leader Laura Brown had her Canyon Creek pig group simulating leading hogs with beach balls at the John Day City Park.
Brown laid out the COVID-19 guidelines at this year’s fair, which include, social distancing measures, a limited number of family passes and limited time in the animals’ pens in between showing animals.
In other counties harder hit by the virus, like Umatilla, which had to move its youth livestock shows online, Grant County will move forward with its fair, albeit without carnival rides, concerts and vendor booths.
Nonetheless, the in-person livestock shows will provide some familiarity for the youth.
The students that are showing their animals are excited to be participating.
Seventh-grader Brooke Taynton will be showing off her pig “Pheobe” this year.
Taynton said she likes to learn about other animals and jumped at the opportunity to practice with goats at Brown’s Canyon City farm on July 26.
Taynton said she always loves to help other kids with their animals and be a team player.
“I love animals,” she said. “I like the responsibility, and I like working hard.”
Sierra May, an eighth-grader at Grant Union Junior High, almost won reserve grand champion at the Grant County Fair when she was in the fourth grade.
May said, along with the county fair’s uncertainty due to COVID-19, raising a hog in a pen by itself has been a challenge.
She said earlier she lost one of her pigs due to illness.
“So it’s been harder getting the pig to eat all of its food,” she said. “Because usually pigs do better with two or more, like they compete with each other to eat more food.”
She said the hog, JC, which is short for John Cena, “doesn’t like to listen all the time, but he does listen half the time.”
She said her brother named the pig after the professional wrestler, actor and rapper and that she has since shortened the swine’s name to “JC.”
“I don’t know,” she said. “It just felt weird going to the fair with a pig named John Cena.”
Initially, May had to feed JC by hand to get him to eat more, but now, she said, he “eats like crazy.”
Grant Union freshman Trey Brown, who will show both a pig and a goat this year, took reserve grand champion last year in showmanship in the goat category.
Trey Brown said he has been in 4-H since the fourth grade and loves the livestock side of the program.
“It is just a good time to be with my friends that have similar interests as me,” he said.
Trey Brown said he especially likes to teach people about goats.
“I don’t really like being in the spotlight as much, but, yeah, I like to let people know about goats because it is an up-and-coming industry,” he said.
May said she likes the social side of the 4-H events, and she has never struggled to sell her pig at the fair.
She said she loves to answer questions about her pig from buyers, which range from its name to how much it weighs.
She said she loves animals and wants to be a veterinarian when she grows up.
“I’m that one kid in the barns who is always in there with my pig and animals,” she said.