From California to New York and everywhere in between, fairs and festivals are a no-go this summer.
But in an agricultural hub like Missoula, Montana, the idea of having no fair at all just didn’t feel right, so fair officials are making it work, and trading in the carnival rides and food stands for a focus on the agricultural side of things.
Yet, even with fair activities limited to 4H and FFA competitions, the process still has to follow strict protocol. After all, that’s the name of the game for every event this year.
Families bring their livestock to the fairgrounds on show day and show day only, they stay in their family pods, social distance, and wear masks. Once the last animal circles the ring, they’re packing up and heading home.
“We’ve been working with the Health Department and 4H and FFA to make sure the kids and animal projects are shown,” said Missoula County Fair director Emily Brock, adding, “Hopefully on Saturday we’re able to move forward with a sale.”
Without the hustle and bustle that normally accompanies a livestock competition, fair officials wanted to do something new and special for the exhibitors.
“This year we sent out a professional photographer with our team to these 4H and FFA farms and captured these gorgeous photos of the kids with their projects,” said Brock.
“Pen Portraits” by photographer Tom Aldrich, https://www.tomaldrich.net/, showcase exhibitors along with funny anecdotes about their animals.
Through the project, the public can get to know local showmen like McKenna Quirk, for example.
“I started showing sheep in my first year in FFA, so this is my fourth year showing, and I'm from here in Missoula,” said Quirk.
As a senior showman, this week was bittersweet for Quirk.
“This is the end of the road! I move to Bozeman next week.”
She’ll attend Montana State to study microbiology and eventually become a veterinarian. Quirk told MTN News that her time showing livestock has played a huge role in her future plans.
“These animals teach us so much... they teach us about responsibility, they teach us about our future careers. I’m personally going into veterinary medicine, so working with sheep has taught me so much about how to prepare for that career.”
One of the last things on Quirk's to-do list before she heads off to college next week is to sell her market lamb. Her earnings will go towards college expenses.
“That's a great thing about these projects,” said Quirk, “A lot of kids do sell projects over the years and have been able to use all that money to help pay for their college tuition and it's absolutely amazing.”
Before you head to the livestock sale this weekend, get to know some of the showmen like McKenna Quirk by checking out Pen Portraits https://missoulafairgrounds.com/pen-portraits.
You’re guaranteed to feel inspired by their work ethic and maybe even a little fuzzy from all the adorable photos.
For more information on how to register for the livestock sale on Saturday you can visit the fair website here: https://missoulafairgrounds.com/