For many 4-H members, the state fair is the highlight of their summer. Long days are spent in the barn preparing their animals for show day. But due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Minnesota State Fair and many county fairs in Minnesota have been canceled. In an effort to give 4-H and FFA members, as well as other Minnesota youth, a place to show their livestock, volunteers have created the Minnesota Youth Livestock Expo.

The volunteers on the Minnesota Youth livestock Expo committee believed still giving Minnesota youth a chance to showcase their project was important.

Kent Thiesse is vice president and farm management analyst at MinnStar Bank at Lake Crystal, Minn.  Courtesy MinnStar Bank
Kent Thiesse is vice president and farm management analyst at MinnStar Bank at Lake Crystal, Minn. Courtesy MinnStar Bank
“For families and youth that are involved in livestock, the fair is normally a big part of their summer. I think they are just happy to have an event like the Expo to get a chance to show their animal,” Kent Thiesse, Expo organizer and volunteer, said.

The Expo itself will be held in two separate county fairgrounds. For those showing swine, the show will take place at Jackson County Fairgrounds. For those showing cattle, sheep or goats, the show will be held on Martin County Fairgrounds. Each species will also get a full day, if not more, of showing, cutting down on overall congestion in the barns and fairgrounds. The shows themselves will take place Aug. 19-23.

The decision to have separate locations was made in an effort to minimize the traffic through the fairgrounds, by limiting the number of people at one location at any given time. Splitting up the species also allowed for ample room for livestock pens and camping spots for families that wish to stay on the fairgrounds.

The Expo plans to take precautions to ensure exhibitors’ safety and overall well-being as well.

“Our show planning committees worked really hard with trying to plan the Expo within the CDC and Minnesota Department of Health guidelines,” Thiesse said.

While the Expo may mirror the Minnesota State Fair in some ways, it is its own entity that follows its own set of rules and regulations, not those set in place by the Minnesota State Fair.

The Minnesota State Fair only allows exhibitors to show one animal. The Expo is allowing exhibitors to show more animals than one and in multiple species. In addition, the age to show at the Expo is 8-21, whereas to be eligible to show at the state fair, exhibitors had to be in at least sixth grade. All Minnesota youth are welcome, regardless of membership in 4-H or FFA. There will also be no auction held at the Expo.

The Expo volunteer committee is made up of 25-30 members, dedicated to putting on a special show for Minnesota Youth. The show has been made possible by their time, energy and passion for the industry. Their ultimate goal being, to give the exhibitors and their family a wonderful experience during this difficult time. The committee hopes that next year, the state fair as well as county fairs will be a part of life once again.

“Our hope is that things for 4-H and FFA shows get back to normal, whether that is a local county show or state fair in 2021,” Thiesse said.

Making the youth their main priority, all leftover money from entry fees will be gifted to exhibitors as prize money or used to purchase prizes for exhibitors. Businesses and individuals can also become sponsors of the show. Their donations will be used to support the Expo.

All entries will be done online at https://mnyouthlivestockexpo.com/index.html. The deadline for entries is July 31. For additional information about their COVID-19 plan, or the show in general, please visit their website.