Events and gatherings around the country have been canceled due to the health threat of COVID-19. Among the cancellations are preview shows and county fairs and the list is growing every day. The summer show season is uncertain for many 4-H and FFA members who have been caring for their livestock and preparing the show ring for weeks. While the traditional show experience is a no-go in question, event organizers have found another way using the World Wide Web.
There’s plenty of preparation, care and instruction when it comes to showing pigs.
“We got them in February and we’ve been getting them out and working with them pretty much ever since,” says Ella Branneman, a future 10th grader from New Paris, Indiana.
Ella and her brother Trey continue to work with their pigs, not yet knowing if their fair will be cancelled this year. Luckily, they have been able to show their pigs through online opportunities.
“You always want to be intense for the judge,” says Trey, a future 7th grader.
Like the traditional show ring, exhibitors have the chance to show virtually in front of judges in the Walton Webcasting studios. in addition to the judges. The video production company is making gilt and barrow shows possible for those who want to compete.
Production staff and commentators are scattered between two studios in Walton, Indiana.
“The first pig came across the screen, big, clear and everything was precise,” says Miles Toenyes, a judge who traveled to the Walton Webcasting studios. “I thought to myself this is going to be really fun!”
Exhibitors submit videos by a deadline, and on show day, they can watch and listen to the judge’s remarks live. The general concept is the same as in-person shows.
While serving as a judge, Toenyes had a hard time sitting down. “They told me several times I could sit down and watch the screen but I didn’t want to,” says Toenyes. “I want to be right up and in the screen and let the kids know it does mean something.”
Walton Webcasting been hosting shows for multiple weekends since the pandemic halted in-person experiences.
“We’ve been all over the place from a little local, jackpot show to a national show to county fairs; all across the country shows have been cancelling left and right,” says Grant Davis, co-owner of Walton Webcasting. “It’s been kind of a mad scramble for us to try to get these shows put together. I mean, we got ‘er packed. The schedule is packed.”
As Ella and Trey practice for what summer might bring, they know the virtual shows aren’t the same as being in the ring. At least their time and dedication won’t be wasted.