You’ve signed up for one of the most thankless jobs there are. If you have kids showing, you’re doing it in order to help them win. If you don’t people wonder how invested you are. You might make one person happy each year. You likely have a committee you work with. Hopefully they stand behind the decisions your committee has made and support your enforcement of those decisions.
Mike and I were in charge of the Beef Committee for several years at the Audrain County Fair. That experience was good for us. We learned A LOT. We have been accused of paying off judges, hiring friends as judges, not fairly breaking classes, on and on. We were told we were being unfair expecting kids to attend beef meetings. We were unfair for making a child send their animal home because the steer could not be controlled. It’s ok, we could take it and see it for what it was. But could I offer you a few words of advice? You can take them or leave them…..they’re basically just observations from our experiences.
1. Don’t make rules you’re not willing to enforce and get rid of the rules if they don’t have consequences. People, in general, look for loop holes. Think about that when you’re putting a rule in the book. If an exhibitor does X, then Y is the consequence. Period. If it’s black and white it’s a whole lot easier to enforce. If the rules state no warts, you kick every calf out with warts. The rule is the rule. If you say the calf must be weighed in at the county weigh in for the calf to sell in the premium sale, you have to enforce it – even if the calf dies the next week and the kid gets a new calf.
2. You can’t grow your show or beef program by limiting the competition at your own show. Excluding kids from other counties limits competition. It breeds complacency. Yes, your county kids will take home the hardware, but what does that mean? How much more exciting is it to compete and win against 20 steers instead of 10? How much more does all that hard work pay off that the kids have put in all year? When our boys were younger they were part of a competitive 4-H club when it came to showing cattle. At least 6 of the 12 or 13 members showed at a Jr. National show. They were competing against some of the best in the Angus, Charolais, Chi, Maine and Salers breeds. We didn’t rely on the county show offering competition, we sought it out on bigger stages. But when we had an open junior show with 120 head showing in our county, it got some attention for our county. We were considered a big time show. And the kids got to experience some good competition and learn from others.
3. Have thick skin. Like I said before, people will accuse you of cheating, not having the kids’ best interest at heart, being unfair or judgemental. Once a standard is set, all should be expected to adhere to that standard – adults and youth alike. Not all, and often many, of your choices won’t be popular. As long as they are in the best interest of the kids and the program, stick to your guns.
4. Don’t change the rules in the middle of the game. Calling a show a “no fit” show when you know people have started already shouldn’t be allowed. Changing who can compete in the pre show contests based on who showed up, isn’t cool either. You meet with your committee months in advance to set the rules for the year. Adding or eliminating classes AFTER ownership deadlines to limit competition is not fair. The rules 6 months in advance should be the rules the day of the show.
5. Focus on the good so you don’t burn out too fast. Focus on the thank you from the first year kid (no matter their age) who tells you how much they loved this project. Focus on the parent who tells you how his kid was headed for trouble until he had this calf to work with. Focus on the grandparents who show up to this one show a year to get a better understanding of what makes the kids tick. Focus on the positive light this show can shed on production agriculture. Focus on the fact that some of these kids will forever be involved in agriculture because of this opportunity.
Thank you so much for taking on the task of running a show. We do know how much work it takes. Planning meetings, ordering prizes, getting sponsors, weigh in day in the spring and then at the fair, breaking classes, checking breed papers, organizing classes, getting good ring help and line up help and an announcer. Thank you for all of it.