In late May, the Wisconsin State Fair made the difficult decision to cancel its Junior Livestock Show, a competition that normally would have taken place this month, as COVID-19 continues to spread.
Sam Henderson, an 18-year-old graduate of Catholic Central High School in Burlington, is one of the many participants dealing with the show’s cancellation. “I honestly kind of expected it to happen,” Henderson says. “But there’s also the disappointment of not being able to show at the State Fair.”
Henderson comes from a cattle-raising family. His parents and older brother all grew up showing livestock. His family has even taken third place in the fair’s overall steer category three times. Henderson’s first memory of entering a livestock show dates to 2005, when at the age of 3, he and his brother brought a cow calf pair to the Racine County Fair. He has participated in the Junior Show each of the past six years, ever since he met the age requirement of 12 years old.
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Junior participants like Henderson will put up to seven hours a day into their projects, especially in the summer. Even during the school year, they will work on and feed their animals at night and on weekends. “It’s like a full-time job,” Henderson says.
Luckily, all of this hard work is not for naught. When news of the State Fair’s cancelation broke, leaders in the agriculture industry organized the Wisconsin Livestock Expo, which will take place Aug. 9-14 at the Racine County Fairgrounds, for exhibitors who were eligible to participate in the State Fair Junior Show. “It will be a different environment because there won’t be the same number of people there, but it will have the same prestige,” Henderson says. In addition the Racine County Fair will still hold its Junior Animal Livestock Show and Sale Aug. 1-2.
Henderson, who will be a freshman finance major at UW-Madison this fall, still has one more year of eligibility to enter the State Fair’s Junior Show and plans on participating. And after that, his sister, who is now 12 years old, will take on the show. “I’m really looking forward to being able to help her,” he said. “I still plan on raising cattle in the future.”