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Oct. 23, 2020
By Ryan McGeeneyU of A System Division of Agriculture
(583 words)(Newsrooms: With additional art at https://flic.kr/s/aHsmRG7rc6)(Download this story in MS Word format here.)
LITTLE ROCK — While most of the parking lots at the Arkansas State Fairgrounds have
sat empty throughout October, the barns and livestock pens at the southern end of
the grounds have been as lively as ever for the past 10 days.
For the first time in decades, the Arkansas State Fair, historically spanning the
middle weeks of October, was canceled — another casualty of the COVID-19 pandemic
that began shuttering businesses and social events in March.
When the Fairgrounds’ board of directors made the decision to cancel the 2020 fair
earlier this year, they left the door open to the possibility of conducting the traditional
livestock show during the same 10 days in October. Farm families from across Arkansas
seized the opportunity.
Chris Sweat, a livestock superintendent for the Arkansas State Fair and former agriculture
teacher at Blevins High School in Hempstead County, said many of the young exhibitors
and their families simply needed an excuse to get out of the house and off the farm.
“I think people are just glad to be able to get out and exhibit their livestock,”
Sweat said. “To be focusing on the bigger picture and not on the little things.
“I see that there’s more of a comradery among the people here,” he said. “Everyone’s
The annual livestock show is normally at the heart of a literal carnival, surrounded
by acres of rides, vendors and tens of thousands of visitors from around the state.
But with the cancellation of the fair itself, the grounds are considerably quieter
and less hectic, which Sweat said had helped to lower the general level of stress
for everyone involved.
“We have plenty of parking,” he said. “The security guards don’t have as much on their
plate, so they’ve been a lot easier to deal with. I think the exhibitors probably
like it more, not being out here without the entire carnival going on.”
Rise in entries
In contrast to the zeroed-out fair attendance, overall participation in various livestock
exhibitions was up substantially. Chelsey Kimbrough, associate professor of specialty
livestock and youth for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture,
said entries in the various cattle categories alone was up 25 percent over 2019.
Kimbrough said the annual fair offers exhibitors, who often begin raising and showing
animals from rabbits to sheep to cattle of every stripe before they themselves even
reach the age of 10, the opportunity to show off the work they’ve put into raising
animals and lessons they’ve learned in the preceding year.
“The Arkansas State Fair is a long-standing tradition,” Kimbrough said. “It’s the
final show of the year where 4-H and FFA members get to showcase their projects. It’s
the culmination of everything they’ve worked toward.”
Kimbrough said that the COVID-19 pandemic, and ensuing “lockdown” measures adopted
by many public and private entities, made the overall livestock exhibition process
more complicated than usual.
“After COVID hit, many were cautious of purchasing animals because of the uncertainty
of fairs and if they would even get to exhibit their projects,” she said. “Many county
and some district fairs canceled. Luckily, the state fair was able to make a show
happen for these youth.
“At the end of the day, it’s not about the banners and buckles, it’s about all the
hard work and long hours they put into their projects to get those accolades, and
the life lessons and friendships made along the way,” she said.
The 2020 livestock show was scheduled for Oct. 14-24.
To learn more about extension programs in Arkansas, contact your local Cooperative
Extension Service agent or visit www.uaex.uada.edu. Follow us on Twitter at @UAEX_edu.
About the Division of Agriculture
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture’s mission is to strengthen
agriculture, communities, and families by connecting trusted research to the adoption
of best practices. Through the Agricultural Experiment Station and the Cooperative
Extension Service, the Division of Agriculture conducts research and extension work
within the nation’s historic land grant education system.
The Division of Agriculture is one of 20 entities within the University of Arkansas
System. It has offices in all 75 counties in Arkansas and faculty on five system campuses.
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension
and Research programs to all eligible persons without regard to race, color, sex,
gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital
or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and
is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.
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Media contact:Ryan McGeeneyCommunications ServicesUniversity of Arkansas System Division of AgricultureCooperative Extension Service(501) email@example.com