By Matt Reese
The Ohio State Fair was very different this year. One radical 2021 departure from years past was the creation of two Grand Drive events, showcasing all the grand drives for each species in the same event.
Taking a cue from other national caliber livestock shows, the events are designed to showcase the youth with a bit more pomp and circumstance while drawing a larger crowd and some extra bells and whistles. The State Fair featured a Grand Drive for the junior breeding livestock exhibitors on July 31 and a second Grand Drive for junior market exhibitors is coming up this weekend on Aug. 7. The events took a huge amount of planning and extensive coordinated effort from the barn staffs of the different species.
It was a tremendous amount of work, but in the end the Breeding Grand Drive event accomplished its lofty goals. There was plenty of positive feedback from Ohio State Fair barn staff and exhibitors alike. The flashiness of the event was an especially big change for the junior breeding exhibitors on July 31.
“This is what our breeding sheep kids have deserved for a long time. They work all year round with lots of sheep and lambs to get to this point,” said Emily Buck, an Ohio State University associate professor who serves on the sheep barn staff at the Ohio State Fair. “They have never been celebrated like this and they deserve it. Their smiles made me so happy. Want kids to stay in the industry? Do this more!”
Junior breeding exhibitors in particular can sometimes fall under the radar, with more emphasis often placed on the market shows. The Grand Drive, with its smoke, pyrotechnics and videos of exhibitors up on the big screen in the Coliseum added some excitement many are not accustomed to seeing at junior breeding events.
In her last year of eligibility as a junior exhibitor, Hainsley Hatfield from Muskingum County was very excited to make it to the Grand Drive with her breeding sheep. She showed Dorpers and Dorsets in the Open and Junior shows and she had market lambs as well.
“The Grand Drive was a great experience with the new way they did it this year. It was very special to me since it is my last year as a junior. It was definitely different from us just being in the show ring in the sheep barn. It was a better experience being able to be recognized that way,” Hatfield said. “There was the smoke when you walked through the tunnel and then the fireworks shooting off, it was amazing. We have never had anything like that on the breeding side.”
The Breeding Grand Drive also brought a different side of livestock production into the spotlight and showcased some of the “behind the scenes” aspects of livestock production. At no point in the event was that more apparent than when the pungent Boar goat bucks sauntered into the ring, changing the entire aura of the Coliseum in a way in which only breeding goat exhibitors are accustomed.
For Grand Champion Fullblood Buck exhibitor Matthew Westfall of Champaign County — and all of the other top breeding exhibitors for the evening — it was the smell of success for the first ever Breeding Grand Drive at the Ohio State Fair, which is hopefully the first of many more events to showcase the often unheralded efforts of Ohio’s junior breeding exhibitors.