By TIM ALEXANDER
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Illinois FFA and 4-H youth will have a chance to compete in junior livestock, horse and other shows, after all. With county and state fairs shuttered due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Illinois Department of Agriculture has clarified rules and dates to provide youth with an opportunity to show their animals during an unprecedented show season.
Social distancing recommendations will be fully in place for the Junior Livestock Expo and Junior Horse Show, announced Jerry Costello II, acting Illinois Department of Agriculture (IDOA) director.
“After the cancellations of the Illinois and Du Quoin State Fairs we knew there was a need to recognize our junior exhibitors who work year round preparing for the fairs,” Costello said. “We are excited to provide modified shows that will provide an opportunity for young adults to exhibit their animals safely following the Restore Illinois plan.”
The Junior Livestock Expo will take place in Springfield over the course of two weekends in September, the IDOA announced. Beef, sheep, dairy goats, pygmy goats and rabbits will all show Sept. 11-13, while swine, dairy cattle and meat goats will have their turn in the show ring on Sept. 18-20.
In addition, a Junior Horse Show will take place on the Du Quoin State Fairgrounds. The show will run for two weekends, with English showing Aug. 29-30 and Western on Sept. 5-6. The IDOA will be awarding ribbons to Champions, Reserve Champions, Grand Champions and Reserve Grands in each species, and will be also be paying out premiums based on total entry monies received in a “Jackpot” style format, according to a July 17 update from the IDOA.
With safety the IDOA’s top priority, the Junior Livestock Expo will be held in the “Show and Go” format, discouraging overnight camping and the stalling/penning of any species. Species with the ability to show animals from their trailers will be asked to do so. In addition, all exhibitors, family members and general public at both locations must adhere to the 6 feet apart social distancing guidelines and will be required to wear a protective face covering at all times while on the Illinois and Du Quoin State Fairgrounds.
Meanwhile, the University of Illinois Extension 4-H will allow staff and volunteers to resume limited in-person gatherings of up to 10 people on Aug. 1, and increase the limit up to 25 starting Aug. 16. Until then, all larger Extension events will continue to be virtual, and participants and staff will be required to practice social distancing and wear face coverings during in-person activities.
“We know that many of our 4-H members and their families have felt the loss of the in-person 4-H shows that are such an iconic part of summertime in Illinois,” Lisa Diaz, Illinois 4-H director, said in a prepared statement. “But early feedback from our families who have participated in a virtual 4-H show already this summer is that it’s still a great learning opportunity that provides a showcase experience for 4-H members.”
Agribusiness is also stepping up to ensure that FFA and 4-H youth in Illinois and the Midwest will have a platform to exhibit and sell their projects. AgCommunityRelief.com is offering a virtual platform for exhibitors on their “current efforts” page, where registration information and rules are also posted.
‘We’ve partnered with DV Auctions, and you can submit pictures, a video and information about your project. Your auction runs through the state you choose, and currently we are offering this to Illinois, Missouri, Kansas and Michigan,” said Matt Schaller, president of AgCommunityRelief. “They can cheer the link, along with the businesses in the community and other folks that would ordinarily bid on their project. There is a two week window for your project and we are asking a $20 entry fee, but we hope that through the business community we can get that cost taken care of.”
The opportunity is available for cattle, hogs and sheep projects exclusively, Schaller said. Entries to not have to be champions. The Illinois auction began July 18 and concludes Aug. 1. Michigan’s auction begins on Aug. 1 and runs for two weeks.
The National Pork Board is doing their part to ensure the safety of participants and animals at livestock shows. The NPB has developed free materials outlining social distancing guidelines and updated biosecurity recommendations for youth shows.