Fair 2021: Making the most of a challenging year

Molly Barber was named showman of showmen for goats last year. She is shown with judge Justin Roeth.

(Posted July 8, 2021)

By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor

This past year, the COVID-19 pandemic significantly changed the way everyone did just about everything, including 4-H and the fair. Though it was challenging, 4-Hers found silver linings and ways to persevere, and they are going into this year’s fair with a new perspective.

“Because everything slowed down, we had kids who spent a lot more time with their projects,” said Frances Foos, 4-H educator with the Madison County OSU Extension Office. “Things have picked up again, so we’re back to that busy world again, but I think everyone is more grateful for the opportunities they have now after what they went through this past year.”

Molly Barber, 16, fits that description. A member of Madison-Plains FFA and the Fairfield Rascals 4-H Club, Molly took advantage of the extra time the pandemic afforded her.

“Since the pandemic shut pretty much everything down, it motivated me to be more dedicated to working with my animals to prepare them for the fair and build trust between them and me,” she said.

Molly has shown goats since she joined 4-H eight years ago. It’s her niche.

“I found my spot in showing goats. Since then, I’ve just loved it. I enjoy the process, starting with the young goat and taking it to the fair,” she said.

Thanks to the extra time she put in, Molly reaped great rewards at last year’s fair, earning the grand showman of showman title for goats. The win was bittersweet, though, as the pandemic prevented the fair from holding the grand showman of showmen contest in which the top showmen from all of the species compete against one another.

That and the fact that the 2020 fair was limited to youth exhibitors–no rides, very little entertainment, only a handful of concessionaires–is why Molly is really looking forward to this year’s fair.

“I’m glad we’re able to go back to a normal fair and get that fair feel,” she said.

This year, she is showing a market goat through FFA and breeding goats through 4-H.

Brooks Barber is looking forward to showing market hogs at this year’s fair.

Last year into this year, Molly’s brother, Brooks, 18, adopted a mindset that mixed realism and optimism.

“My biggest thing was thinking that everybody was going through the same thing. This wasn’t personally attacking me. A lot of other people were having the same or worse issues,” he said. “I kept looking forward, knowing this wasn’t going to go on forever.”

For Brooks, a 2021 graduate of London High School, time during the pandemic was more about having too little of it, rather than too much.

“There was a lot of time management for me. I was working two jobs during that time, so it was about balance–making sure I was getting my animals taken care of for the day between my different jobs,” he said.

This is Brooks’s last year of Junior Fair eligibility. He is taking market hogs, and he is excited for fair week.

“I’m excited to see a lot of the visitors back. To have them come back in and have it not seem like such a ghost town will be great,” he said.

The 2021 Madison County Fair runs July 10-17. For a full schedule of events, visit Madison County Fair.

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