After last year’s heartbreak, students hope virtual livestock show will pay off
Santa Fe High School sophomore Jaylee Rushing sometimes rises at 3 a.m. to care for her heifer.
Rushing, who also is the secretary of Santa Fe High School Future Farmers of America, was really looking forward to this year’s Galveston County Fair & Rodeo, she said.
Even though the pandemic means a modified version of the popular event, Rushing still is grateful for the chance to show her animal, she said. She was at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo in March last year when the event was shut down abruptly because of concern about the spread of COVID-19.
“We worked all year to get there,” Rushing said. “It’s very heartbreaking.”
This year, the Galveston County Fair & Rodeo plans to move forward with an altered version of the event, which is April 16-24. The fair board canceled the event last year just weeks before it was scheduled as concerns about COVID-19 swept through the region.
This year, students will be able to show their livestock and projects, said Barbara Magana Robertson, spokeswoman for the fair. But the 2021 fair won’t include carnival games or rides, she said.
The fair won’t be open to the general public, but interested buyers can watch and place bids virtually, she said.
“The most important thing about the Galveston County Fair & Rodeo is the kids,” Robertson said. “We want to be able to not only show their animals but give them the opportunity to sell their animals.”
Getting an animal ready for auction is normally a feat. This year, students have been making a few changes to accommodate the uncertain nature of the pandemic.
Barney Kelley, an eighth-grade student at Blocker Middle School in Texas City, plans to show a lamb at the fair this year.
He likes to walk his animals around at least 30 minutes a day and make them stand up at least 30 minutes, he said. That helps the animals build muscle. In a normal year, he’ll give his animals some days off from exercise, but this year he hasn’t been taking chances, he said.
“You don’t know when you’ll have to go into quarantine,” Kelley said.
Kelley has quarantined three times during this school year because a close contact tested positive for COVID-19, he said. That means time away from the animals, he said.
Some students still are fearful the event, like so many other things in the past 12 months, will be canceled.
After the event was called off in 2020, some students didn’t have the money or enthusiasm to show this year, said Casey Whatley, a junior at Santa Fe High School and vice president of the campus FFA.
“Having the will to go and do anything was hard,” said Whatley, who shows steers. “It could all get taken away from you again.”
Students typically rely on sales of their animals at previous fairs to buy and care for new animals the next year. It can cost $50 to $75 a month for product to keep bovine hair glossy and smooth and $12 a feedbag, which many animals need once a day, Whatley said.
Students put a lot of work into their animals and getting to show them off is the culmination of those efforts, Whatley said.
“It’s a lot of nights with no sleep,” she said. “Sometimes, you’re up 48 hours.”
Many seniors also use the proceeds from sales during their last year at the fair to pay for part of their college education.
Santa Fe High School senior Jordyn Boutwell hopes the proceeds from her pig will go into her college fund this year, she said. Boutwell, president of her school’s FFA program, is paying for her education herself, she said.
“I have to get this money to pay for my tuition,” Boutwell said. “That would help a lot going away to college.”
Still, Boutwell loves caring for her pig, she said. The uncertainty about the fair this year has made her focus more on enjoying her time at the barn, she said.
Robertson is just glad the students will have a way to show off all their hard work, especially after the disappointment of last year, she said.
“At the end of the day, we will be able to have an auction, which is so important because that’s where the community can help,” Robertson said.
For auction information, visit www.galvestoncountyfair.com.