2021 Youth Expo ‘more relaxed’
By Wade Bell, Contributing Writer
Last summer during the COVID-19 pandemic, county fairs throughout the state were either canceled or carried on under tight restrictions by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Crawford County Youth Expo was one of those few events to take place, but certain rules had to be followed to help keep everybody safe from the virus.
This year, with the availability of vaccines and the lifting of restrictions in Indiana, county fairs and the expo have returned almost to pre-pandemic levels. The Crawford County Youth Expo, which took place July 11 to 17, was one of them.
“We were about 10 kids short last year compared to this year,” said event organizer Rhonda Crecelius. “We had a good crowd last year, and so far this year we’ve had a good crowd. At the beginning of the week, the weather wasn’t in our favor but it did make it cooler this year. … ”
“Our animals (numbers) are up,” said arena traffic controller TJ Holzbog. “We only had six pigs last year, and we’ve got 20-something this year. We’re down on cows because Junior Nationals is going on, so some of our kids are there. Crowd-wise we’re up. Last year it was down because of COVID.”
Crecelius said there were 36 goats and the number of chickens and rabbits were about the same as 2020.
Even the kids could feel the difference between last year and this year with less stress and worries. They found 2021 more enjoyable.
“We still came out here and showed and everything, but this year there’s been a lot more kids out here and we’ve got a lot more animals,” said Claudia Fraze. “It’s just been fun to get out and not have the mask on and have things back to normal.”
“I think people are having a lot more fun this year with the activities, especially in the evenings, like the Barnyard Olympics, whereas last year it was a little different,” said Crawford County senior Mattie Pope. “Overall, I think it’s been pretty good.”
“I think everybody is a little more calm and less worried,” said 13-year-old Logan Wolf of Marengo. “Are people going to be OK with COVID and are people going to come and stuff like that? I think people are a little less on edge. They’re more relaxed and more calm.”
Monday saw a day of judging projects then that evening the littlest of exhibitors in the barn took the spotlight during the Barnyardigan Show. Tuesday was poultry and rabbit night and when the judging got more serious.
When it comes to picking out a chicken or rabbit to raise and exhibit, sometimes it helps to get a little assistance from somebody who knows the animals inside and out.
“The best thing to do is find a reputable breeder,” said TJ Wolf. “They can help you out. They know what to look for. They know when they’ve got a good animal. Every species is different. Some of them they want to be beefy; some of them they don’t. Some of them they want to be long; some of them they don’t. It’s finding somebody with the knowledge to know what they’re looking at.”
“It kind of depends on what you’re looking for and the person,” said Logan Wolf. “I personally like pretty chickens. If it’s pretty and its feathers look good and it’s not really scrawny and stuff, and it looks well built, then usually I will get that chicken. Rabbits, I like mini-rexes. They’re kind of smaller, and I like the grayish-bluish ones that have a very round back.”
The poultry and rabbit shows were last Tuesday night. That was also a big night for the littlest humans with the Pretty Baby and Tiny Tot contests going on.
While there were fewer sheep, the number of goats took up the slack on Wednesday night during the goat and sheep shows.
“Goats, it’s really just (if they) stand well and look nice when they’re set up and stuff,” said Logan Wolf.
Thursday was the night for the largest of animals, with the cattle and swine shows, and competition going for bragging rights as much as ribbons. Choosing the right animal can lead to either a really good night or a really bad one.
“Whenever they’re babies, it’s kind of hard because all of them look similar,” said Fraze. “If it’s a breeding animal, we want them to have really good structure because we want them to be able to grow up and carry babies. We want them to have a long life. Then the market animals, we want them to be big and strong and have good muscle definition. I always like them to have a lot of hair and be fluffy.”
“Cows, it’s more on size and how they look,” Logan Wolf said. “They’ve got to look nice when you set them up. Me and my family have a couple of different people that we go to each year. I usually look at about four or five. I go around looking at different people and see what they have this year. Then I’ll see which one fills out the best for a show. We get our cows pretty early on. You want to think, ‘Is it going to look good for show?’ ‘Is it going to be big enough and weigh enough?’ ‘Is it going to walk well’ and stuff like that.”
TJ Wolf said controlling pigs is the hardest when it comes to working animals in the show ring.
“The pig show is by far the hardest because they’re not harnessed,” she said. “Everything else you can either hold with your hands or you can harness them. We have lots of parents who help and get things moving so it works out.”
Pope only brought a pig to be exhibited.
“It was good,” Pope said. “I think my pig, Daisey, did really good. We struggled a little bit with walking, so overall I think she did pretty good. I’ve been helping out with the younger kids, but I personally only have one animal. It’s been a lot of fun this year.”
“I think it helps with confidence and getting to talk to people and communication,” she continued. “I think that’s a big deal, especially with respect. I think that will carry on for everybody, especially the younger kids … They get to watch the older kids. I know a lot of kids that’s graduated up from the Barnyardigans this year and are actually showing for the first time. That’s a big deal for them.”
Friday night was a bittersweet night for many of the livestock exhibitors with the annual livestock auction. For some, it was hard to watch their animal being auctioned away after being raised from a baby. On the other side of the coin, however, prices went high.
Kabrin Wolf was one of those benefiting from the high bidding with her reserve grand champion cow going for $3,500. Much of that auction money goes back to pay for expenses and college funds.
“It’s very important,” TJ Wolf said of the auction. “These kids work. My girls have worked their beef projects since last fall. We’ve had it quite a while and, for them to be able to sell their animals, it makes them proud if their animal brings a good amount. Some of the kids have to pay parents back for feed and all of that, which mine do. Some of the parents let them keep it all, but either way it makes them feel good if their animal brings a good number.”
“I like selling my animals,” said Logan Wolf. “I do get a little sad because I get real close to them, but it’s pretty important because it helps out with the feed cost and the cost of getting my animal next year. That’s where my money goes into. I get some of it and some of it I give back. Without that, it would harder to get the animals and what you need for the animals the next year.”
The finale of the Youth Expo came Saturday with new royalty being crowned. Ruby Bullington was crowned Little Miss, and Knox Maxwell was named Little Master. Kisey Thone won Junior Miss Crawford County honors, and Leah Byerly was crowned the newest princess.
Then came the Miss Crawford County pageant with Lindsey Biddle, Veronica Portillo, Tasha Wiseman, Claudia Fraze and Jadin Wolf competing for the top honor in a variety of categories. There were also two entertainment surprises with 2019 Miss Crawford Elizabeth McCoy doing a song in sign language and former Miss Crawford County Janie Neal coming from Alabama to sing.
When the final judging was done, Fraze won Miss Businesswear and Biddle was named Miss Photogenic. Portillo was named Miss Formalwear, and Wiseman won Miss Congeniality. Wolf won Crowd Favorite and also the interview award. Then, Wiseman was named second runner-up, and Fraze was first runner-up. Wolf was crowned Miss Crawford County for 2021 leading to tears by both her and her family members.
“It was a complete surprise,” said Wolf.
Crecelius said the response to the Youth Expo has been good and expects to see more kids out for next year’s event.
“This is a wonderful thing for them because they can come out here and show an animal and a judge critiques them,” she said. “We had so many positive responses from the judges this week that, if a child came out with their animal, he told them, ‘Hey, you’re doing this a little bit wrong. You need to change this up.’ Immediately they made those changes. They did everything he asked. It just makes them a better person.”