Let the kids show, despite any COVID-19 cancellations
Ally Loosen and her brother Paul were planning on doing a few extra livestock shows this spring after having to miss a couple last fall — until the coronavirus cancelled those spring shows. That got Ally thinking — and talking — about other kids who show livestock and are missing out on the funds they would gain from these shows.
After they missed their first jackpot show this spring, the idea of supporting kids who couldn't show their livestock because of the virus started with a simple idea of selling T-shirts and yard signs. But by the end of that day, Ally had decided to pull together a national virtual livestock show.
"In an afternoon she went from the idea to having everything put together," said Ally's mom Angie. "She designed flyers and shirts and signs and by that evening she had it out on social media within about five or six hours of her working on it."
Using her show cattle contacts, Ally lined up judges for market cattle, swine, lambs and goats. Registration papers, including the $30 entry fee for the first entry and $15 for each additional entry, are due May 15. A 60 - 90 second video showing three profiles of the animal — front, side, rear — and walking, are due by 12 p.m., May 18 for swine, May 19 for cattle, May 20 for lambs and May 21 for goats. All results will be released by May 24 on the Corona Kicker Facebook and Instagram pages.
The event had more than 1,200 likes to the Facebook page and nearly 30 youth had entered the nation-wide contest as of last week. Being a quarter of the way to her goal of 100 entries and several weeks left before the registration deadline, Ally thinks they will hit their registration goal for the virtual show.
Money raised from entries and sales of T-shirts and yard signs will go to paying the judges and for awards for the top three champions in each division. The remaining funds will be donated to the National 4-H, National FFA and American Red Cross organizations.
However, the virtual livestock show is only one aspect of the whole show experience for youth.
Ally has been showing livestock for seven years, has taken tops honors at the Washington County Fair and the Wisconsin State Fair. She started in the Wayne Crusaders 4-H Club and and now is a member of the Slinger FFA.
The Loosen family raises dairy beef feeder cattle on their 60-acre farm in Hartford, raising about 100 - 120 head per year, Ally said. They also have beef cows and market lambs on their farm as well as breeding lambs at another farm in the area.
Showing livestock is a passion of Ally's and the whole Loosen family.
"It's always been Ally's passion, our whole family's passion really, but showing is their sport. They don't play any sports really in school," said Angie.
While some families may take family vacations to Disney World, "our Disney World is the State Fair," Angie said. "My husband and I take two weeks vacation and that's our 'quote unquote' Disney World."
It's where their family memories have been made, where their roots are, so "having the void of the shows has been tough," Angie explained.
"Showing livestock is much more than walking into a barn. It's a family experience, family that is blood and not. By doing these shows, my brother and I, we have met so many incredible people that we can reach out to at any time," said Ally. "We've made a second family at all these shows and not being able to go to jackpot and see your friends, not being able to spend a week at county fair sleeping in the barns, spending 24 hours a day with your livestock, it's like a part of your heart is being ripped out."
Along with missing the family experience is the financial aspect of showing livestock.
That possible void of livestock shows, if county fairs are cancelled, will financially impact youth who planned to show. Money won through awards at the fair and through auction sales at the fair could be lost.
"So many businesses are willing to go above and beyond market price to support the youth," said Ally. "That's where we make our money back."
Besides not getting a return on the money they've already spent in raising the animal for this year's shows, it affects their ability to purchase for next year. For some it also could also affect their future if that money is earmarked for an education or college fund, Angie explained.
With the end goal of raising and showing livestock being to make a successful sale, often making far above market price, which is "sick right now," Angie said the youth will really feel the impact if that sale doesn't happen.
"That's where they're going to feel it, when they have to ship it off to the yard or hopefully sell it to somebody privately and get at least a little something over the market price," said Angie.
Ally has tried reaching out to businesses to see if there is anything that can be done to help make up for potential loss from auction sales, but the whole agricultural economy has taken a hit with COVID-19 and the businesses that would be at fair auctions are also impacted by the pandemic.
"I think it's gonna take a little time for everything to heal," said Angie. "Maybe there'll be a silver lining and it might be a rally year for these kids and some of the businesses will still try and step up and purchase those animals."
Angie is crossing her fingers that by July and August things will be turned around, but "we know the writing is kind of out there, but no one wants to admit it."
The Oneida County Fair announced on April 23 that the 2020 fair would be cancelled. The fate of the other county fairs and State Fair are still unknown.
"A lot of fairs are talking about at least having some kind of show for the kids," Angie said. "We really don't know until we know what our social distancing is going to be like."