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One of the biggest jobs at the fair for fair board members is organizing and running the many livestock shows.
Prep work for the fair starts months in advance as board members work to find judges from outside the county. The Cleveland County Fair is always the first weekend after the Labor Day holiday and the state fair follows next week. That means they are competing with other fairs to retain the best judges.
Entries for livestock have already been turned in, and on the evening of Wednesday, Sept. 7, livestock will be checked-in and weighed at the Fair Barn before the fair starts on Thursday.
That’s when the real work begins. Fair Board member Jake Calvert said unloading cattle after all the vendors have moved in, presents unique challenges.
“There are all kinds of trucks and kids and cattle and everybody is going everywhere,” he said.
Calvert works with Fair Board member Carl Mize and Fair Board President John McDaniel on the livestock shows. The three sit on a committee that works with the livestock groups on the rules and help keep the show running smoothly.
“I have what you might call the least responsibility with management of the barn and in numbers of the livestock than John and Carl,” Calvert said.
All of them pitch in despite their specialties, but McDaniel is in charge of dairy cattle and poultry. At a young age. he was helping with the cows on the family farm.
“I was raised on a dairy farm,” McDaniel said. “My grandmother had chickens on the same farm, so I was always working with chickens or working with cows.”
Both Calvert and McDaniel grew up showing animals and have passed it on to younger generations.
“My first fair was in 1961, and I’ve watched kids with show projects go and come and now their grandkids are showing,” McDaniel said. “You don’t have many new families, we have the families that have been there for years and years. My grandkids are showing now.”
Both said caring for animals is a learning experience for the kids who exhibit at the fair.
“You’ve got to be there for the baby animals,” McDaniel said. “When we give them baby chicks. We tell them those baby chicks can’t turn the water on. Taking care of those animals is their responsibility.”
Calvert’s area of expertise is beef cattle and he believes caring for animals builds character.
“It’s my honest belief that showing livestock builds a level of responsibility that you can’t build into kids playing sports or cheerleading or playing piano. Not that any of those aren’t good things, but when you have to care for living, breathing things it builds a sense of responsibility,” he said.
Those kids tend to grow up to be responsible and hard working, and they understand what it means to have a living creature reliant upon them.
“At my house, the animals came before the people did,” Calvert said. “You don’t sit down to dinner until the chores are done. It breeds a different type of kid.”
McDaniel is pleased with the number of livestock entries they have for the county fair this year.
“We have about 40 dairy cows this year,” he said. “There’s no other county fair with that many, I don’t think, and the poultry show is up around 300 which is really good for a county fair.”
Fair Board Secretary Sandy McClure said there were 20 entries each in Beef Cattle and Meat Goats, 34 Sheep, 16 Swine, 37 Dairy Cattle, 41 Dairy Goats and 50 Rabbits, showing this year. Numbers of rabbits and poultry are up, but some of the numbers are down this year, probably due to increases in feed.
“I think the challenges to anything right now is feed, and the high price of feed to keep the animal going,” said McDaniel. “It’s difficult for exhibitors to fund their projects.”
Calvert is a beef producer, and when he was elected to the Cleveland County Fair Board, they needed someone to fill that niche, so it was a natural fit. Living in Oklahoma, means weather challenges, he said.
“Typically, we have warm weather at the beginning of September which makes it is tough to keep cattle cool in the Fair Barn,” he said.
Calvert said he’d like to encourage people who have never spent time in the Fair Barn to come check out the live stock shows which run through the day on Friday and Saturday and finish out on Sunday afternoon with the poultry shows.
“The majority of people who are not familiar with the livestock part of the fair would be pleasantly surprised with meeting the kids, the parents and the teachers who could answer their questions,” he said. “Most of the time, kids who grow up showing livestock stay involved in agriculture. Helping kids show livestock helps build the people who are going to feed us in the future.”
Calvert said working with these kids at the fairs and other shows always gives him a better outlook on life.
“I spend three or four days around those kids and watch them hustle to keep the barn clean, their animals clean and to talk about their projects and I come back with a renewed sense of positivity about our future,” he said.