GREAT FALLS — When Cascade County commissioners voted to cancel the 2020 Montana State Fair due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they left the door open for smaller events to use the ExpoPark grounds.
While they specifically mentioned livestock shows, MTN News has confirmed that the annual state fair 4-H junior livestock competition and sale has been canceled.
"We are directly funded by the state fair and all the money comes from them,” state fair livestock show superintendent Mike Vanek said. “Without gate proceeds or profits and concert profits, you have no money to go around."
It’s certainly a blow to the 4-H and FFA community who start working with their animals in the fall and prep them for showing and sale in the summer. The hard work is one thing, but the show also serves as a rural community gathering site for juniors from all across the state.
“Just the opportunity to be around the other kids is what they’re missing,” Vanek said. “Our show is unique and special in a way that we bring kids from Kalispell to Miles City. It might be the only time they get to see each other during the year.”
Vanek sees a silver lining in the cancellation. A chance to regroup and go back to the drawing board to make the show bigger and better in 2021.
“I think when something like this happens, if you can step back and almost take a break for a little bit and then start with some new energy and some new ideas, I think it could be beneficial,” Vanek said. “And it gives you a chance to step back and look at it.”
But while the state fair livestock show will be missed, participants will still have several opportunities to show and sell their animals. The annual Cascade County 4-H livestock show, which is separate from the state fair show, will go on as scheduled on July 10-11 at the ExpoPark livestock pavilion - albeit with some changes to account for our new reality and health guidelines.
“We are very fortunate this year to still conduct our show. We’ve been working with the County Health Department, the Montana Expo Park and our Cascade County commissioners to figure out a way that we can be safe,” Rose Malisani, the show organizer said. “We'll still have only 50 people in the livestock pavilion, and we’ll sanitize in between classes. We've changed our show schedule to bring in species during certain times of the day.”
Malisani, who works for the Montana State Cascade County extension office, is working on details to turn the live auction which usually ends the show into a two-day online auction. The show will be live streamed so that those not in attendance for safety reasons or otherwise, can watch the event from the comfort of their homes.
There’s also been an unforeseen benefit for 4-H livestock during the pandemic. With meat prices rising due to restrictions in the national supply chain, quality local protein is in high demand. So, 4-H livestock shows and sales have never been more important.
“I think hamburger in the grocery case was $8 dollars a pound, which is a lot of money for hamburger,” Malisani said. “There's a lot of people who are looking for good quality protein and a great place to do that would be the livestock sale. So, it's going to look a little bit different this year, but we're still trying to hang on to the core values of 4-H."
Catalogs for the Cascade County 4-H livestock show and sale will be distributed prior to the event, which starts on July 10. For more information or to request a catalog, contact the Cascade County Extension office at 406-454-6980.