For more than a century the Baker County Fair and the youth-raised livestock that go along with it have been a part of the county’s culture.
While COVID-19 has shut down event after event this year, community members and participants were determined not to let the pandemic dismiss the hard work of 4-H and FFA members in raising and training their animals.
While the Fair this week isn’t open to the public and doesn’t have the attractions it normally does, including the open show, youngsters will still have the opportunity to show and sell their pigs, sheep, steers and other animals.
On Wednesday morning youths gathered in a temporary ring at the Leo Adler baseball field, near the Fairgrounds, to show the swine they’ve raised from piglets.
Today the sheep, goats and small animals will be on display, and Friday the steers enter the ring.
Terri Siddoway, president of the Fair Sale Committee, said that while the Fair is different, some aspects are familiar.
“The sale part is fairly normal, with the exception of not having all of the buyers in the barn,” Siddoway said.
That’s not to say there weren’t hours of planning needed to make it happen. But Siddoway said the efforts were well worth it.
“One of the reasons we really wanted to go through all of the work to make this happen was so that the seniors would have the opportunity to do this,” she said. “The kids have been positive and happy to be here, and that makes me really happy. For them to be thankful that we did it makes it all better.”
Recent high school graduate Shane Cunningham, who has shown animals at the Fair for nine years, said this year’s event wasn’t like any other he’d competed in.
“It’s a lot different obviously with all the restrictions, but I’m still glad we’re able to do it,” he said. “I’m happy we’re still having it and they’re doing as much as possible to make it as normal as possible.”
Madison Yencopal, who will be a sophomore, has been involved in 4-H for four years.
“I really appreciate the leaders this year, I think they’re working ten times harder than they have in the past to make this year as normal and fun as possible,” she said.
Madison Morgan, a 2020 Pine Eagle High School graduate who’s heading to Eastern Oregon University, wants to be a veterinarian.
Morgan said that after seven years of raising and showing pigs, she now breeds and shows her own pigs at the Fair. While she said that she was disappointed that the showmanship competition was canceled, she was still determined to make the best of it.
“You kind of wish it was different, but you can’t change the circumstances,” Morgan said.
McKenzie Leggett, an incoming senior at Powder Valley High School, said she was happy to have a fair at all. But she’s hopeful that next year’s event will be a full-fledged event.
“I was expecting a virtual fair, but we made a way around it with our masks and pens outside; I’m really glad I get to show this year and that we even get to have a fair,” Leggett said. “But I hope everything goes back to normal, because I do miss the fun of getting to play cards and having the tents and getting to hang out with the other kids.”
Kaylee Dalke, who graduated in June from Baker High School and will study ag business at Oregon State University, said that although this year’s fair isn’t an ideal end to her eight years of showing pigs at the Fair, it was definitely memorable.
“It’s really cool to see all the helpers and people in charge try to make it a fun experience even though we know it’s different,” Dalke said.
“This is my last year showing a pig; I’ve been doing it since the fourth grade, and it’s kind of a bummer to end it on this type of year but I’m glad that I still get to experience it and make a lasting memory.”
Fair animals will be auctioned Friday starting at 5 p.m. with the steers. The event is not open to the public.