MASON COUNTY — Despite not being able to have in-person 4-H events, many members and their families are choosing to purchase animals for the county fair.
On Wednesday, West Virginia University (WVU) Extension Services announced the extended suspension of in-person meetings and events through June. Mason County Extension Agent Lorrie Wright previously told the Register that 4-H members are encouraged to continue their projects to prepare for fair. Wright did say it was up to each family on whether or not they purchase animals for the fair.
Addyson Stein, 14, and her sister Gracyn Stein, 11, are members of the Road Runners 4-H Club. They and their parents R.F. and Aimee Stein, purchased their market goats for the fair almost a month ago. R.F. said they make plans for purchasing goats months in advanced — before they knew what the coronavirus was. The Stein family shows goats every year, beginning before the children were old enough to show market goats.
“The project itself consists of more than just going to the fair, showing the animal and selling the animal,” R.F. said. “The vast majority of the project is done in the months leading up to the fair. We’re going to continue to proceed as though we’re going to have a place to show and a place to sell. If that changes then we’ll deal with it.”
Addyson said she enjoys being with her goats and allowing them to become more comfortable with her at the beginning of their training.
“The responsibility leading up to (the fair) is a major part of the project,” Addyson said. “Showing a goat has made me learn responsibility of taking care of it, walking it everyday, making sure it’s well fed and has water and is clean. I think that’s really taught me to be responsible.”
Gracyn said she enjoys the goats when they first bring them home. The Stein family said their goats have changed a lot since they brought them home and they’re getting more comfortable with their new owners.
“My favorite part is when they are just born, or when we just get them, and we have to go down to the barn and work with them a lot — just to see their improvement every week and how they get closer to us and more comfortable around us,” Gracyn said.
Other families also said they were going to proceed with their animals as they would any other year. Some of these decisions included choosing a type of feed to purchase. Most show quality feeds are more expensive than the commercial feeds used for other market animals.
Sally Smith, the advisor of Sugar Maples 4-H Club, said that her family made the decision to purchase show hogs for her two daughters’ 4-H projects. Bailey, 12, and Brooklyn, 9, are second generation hog showman.
“To me, as a parent, we look at it as it’s a responsibility the kids have to take care of,” Smith said. She said her children take care of their hogs and will work with them through the summer to get them ready for show.
Bailey said her favorite part of showing hogs is the showmanship portion at the fair. She is excited about having a black pig this year and she said the animal already weighs about 70 pounds, but does not have a name yet.
Brooklyn named her pig Big Mac and he is “pink” in color. She said she will teach him to be tame and walk him during the summer in preparation of showing at the county fair.
The WVU Extension Office and Wright are telling people that the fair is still scheduled currently, but the pandemic is rapidly changing, so it is up to each individual to make their own decision on whether to purchase animals. Many club advisors are telling their members the same thing.
The WVU Mason County Extension Office announced on Monday evening that the market animal tag-in days have been postponed to June 6 for the Ashton area and June 13 at the fairgrounds. The date a 4-H member needs to possess their animal is now June 1, which gives families a little more time to make their decision. This announcement came before WVU Extension Services announced the cancellation of events through June. Wright told the Register on Wednesday afternoon that June 4-H camps were canceled, but she was unsure about tagging dates at that time.
The extension office’s post on Facebook reads “Please understand that tagging an animal in no way ensures that you will be able to exhibit and/or sell your animal at the Mason County Fair. The situation will continue to be evaluated …”
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Kayla Hawthorne is a staff writer for Ohio Valley Publishing. Reach her at (304) 675-1333, ext. 1992.