When the Minnesota State Fair canceled, livestock industry leaders gathered together to create the Minnesota Youth Livestock Expo that took place on August 19-23.
Kent Thiesse, one of the committee members for the event and a long-time supporter, told AgriTalk host Chip Flory he’s never heard so many thank-yous in his life. He said the hours of decision-making and planning that went into making this event possible were well worth it to see those smiling faces.
Not only did Thiesse grow up showing livestock himself, but he has stayed involved over the years because he recognizes the value and opportunity showing livestock provides young people.
“I’ve just seen so many kids that have grown and developed over the years [through livestock shows] and went on to successful ag careers. One of the best examples, one of our 4-H alumni from Minnesota way back that I remember being involved with is Steve Censky who is now the Deputy Secretary for the USDA. He started as a 4-Her in Jackson County, Minnesota,” Thiesse said.
The show drew in 900 exhibitors and 1,900 exhibits from the state of Minnesota. Typically, the Minnesota State Fair allows youth exhibitors to bring only one animal, but this show allowed them to bring multiple animals. The hogs were exhibited at the Jackson County Fairgrounds in Jackson, and the beef, sheep and goats were exhibited at the Martin County Fairgrounds in Fairmont.
“This show just really exploded,” he said. “It showed how anxious 4-H and FFA members and their families were to get out and have a major show event. It was really successful in all aspects.”
Putting on a show of this magnitude requires resources and financial support. Thiesse said the response they received from donors went way beyond their expectations, too. Through donations from businesses, individuals and organizations, they were able to raise around $200,000 for the show.
“So not only did we cover our expenses, but we were able to give all the kids some very nice prizes. In fact, every exhibitor got some prize money out of even the last place one in every class. We were really excited to be able to do that,” he told Flory.
Now the question on everyone’s mind is “what about next year?”
Thiesse hopes 2021 will be much different and that county fairs and the state fair will be back on the calendar. Regardless, the committee has a plan in place to do something – maybe not of the same magnitude – to help provide youth another opportunity to exhibit their livestock.
“I think what'll happen is the Minnesota Youth Livestock Expo will probably become more of a preview show,” he said. The key will be figuring out the best time of the year – before county fair season kicks in.
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