Southeastern Youth Fair is “baa”ack

Kyle Rich of Fort King Middle FFA preps “Viper” the lamb on Friday during the opening day of the Southeastern Youth Fair. [Ainslie Lee/Ocala Gazette]
Even a global pandemic couldn’t stop a tradition as steady as the Mississippi River.

On Friday, the 81st Annual Southeastern Youth Fair kicked off with the addition of live streaming and online bidding for the first time in its history. The changes are meant to make the event safer as the COVID-19 pandemic still grips the world.

Muddy boots kicked around freshly cut wool in the barn at the Southeastern Livestock Pavilion as exhibitors readied for the first bit of action. Goats and lambs headlined Friday with students showing off their lambs in a skill-a-thon followed by dairy, meat and market goats later in the day.

For an exhibitor like Casey Oliver, a member of the Belleview Bald Eagles 4H, the thought of not having a fair this year was one that crept into her mind.

“In the beginning of the year, everything was kind of on halt,” Oliver recalls. “And that was really disappointing. But, you know, all of the work definitely made it possible for us to have these shows. I mean, we’ve definitely had to social distance and use masks, but… it’s been really nice.”

One of the most traditional agricultural fairs in the country, the SEYF took the plunge this year, technologically speaking, by presenting events live-streamed on YouTube for family and friends to watch from home. The organizers also added live online bidding for market animals, including steers and swine.

For months leading up to the fair, students belonging to 4-H or FFA raised pigs, steers, lambs, goats, rabbits and chickens. The projects included establishing feeding and care regimens that would get the best return on investment. The goal is to sell the animal for a profit at auction. While the fair stresses agriculture, the lessons learned go beyond the farm.

For Oliver, a St. John Lutheran senior who is competing in her last fair, the work done by organizers to put on the fair is appreciated.

“I have a lot of family members who couldn’t make it that still get to watch it,” Oliver said. “So, I actually think that this year we’re going to have the best year so far.”

She hopes the online bidding translates into higher prices.

“I think that there’s going to be a lot more bidders that can bid online that don’t have to be here physically,” said Oliver.

The fair runs through Feb. 27. Those interested in watching the action or registering to bid can do so at seyfair.com.

Posted in Education, Events, NewsTagged

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