Cambria fair livestock auction to be virtual/in-person mix; 4-H groups seek return to past format

·3 min read

Aug. 6—EBENSBURG, Pa. — The American Legion County Fair livestock auction will once again be conducted in a virtual/in-person hybrid format this year.

Representatives of the event who spoke with The Tribune-Democrat on Friday believe that is the most effective way to provide the best experience for families, buyers, volunteers, staff, processors and other supporters.

A group of Cambria County 4-H members would prefer that the auction be held entirely in-person, as was previously done when children directly presented their animals in the ring.

The change started when the entire 2020 auction, put on by the Cambria County Youth Livestock Committee, was conducted using television screens due to social distancing protocols during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. A hybrid event was held last year.

Plans are to use the same format as last year's event during the upcoming auction — to be held starting at 5 p.m. Sept. 8 at the American Legion County Fairgrounds in Ebensburg.

Children selling livestock will be in the ring, but the animals will not be. The rabbits, lambs, goats, cows and swine will instead be shown on television screens.

Only overall grand and reserve champions, as well as county-bred champions and reserve winners for each species, will be presented in the sale ring by the exhibitors. The children will then get to interact with the winning buyers.

'What the kids want'

Auction representatives did not want to be mentioned by name in the newspaper, but provided information — verbal and written — about why the hybrid format was continued, citing what they said were safety improvements, less noise, dust reduction, less spectator congestion, avoiding possible weather issues, ease in finding buyers and cutting down the time needed to conduct the auction.

They also pointed to 2021, when a hybrid format was used, as being the auction's highest year for gross sales.

However, some 4-H members, including Rhonda Smith, a local leader, think the current plan causes the children to miss out on a "grand finale" when they personally present the animal in the ring.

Smith said the 4-H exhibitors took a vote in which 27 supported presentations that include the children and animals being in the ring together, one was in favor of the hybrid, and two expressed no preference.

"The kids voted overwhelmingly that they would like to go back to the live sale where they have their animal in the ring with them," Smith said. "With that data, CCYL just still continues to not abide by what the kids want. I guess it's frustrating because it seems like they want to do what the kids want, but yet that's not what's happening."

Ellie McMullen, a 16-year-old from Ashville who raises steers and pigs, wants the in-person presentations to return.

"I think the buyers like to see how us 4-Hers are with our animals and how we react with them," McMullen said. "I like them to see in person how I'm proud to show my animals in front of them and to see it done. It makes me feel accomplished and complete."

Regarding the current format, McMullen said, "A picture doesn't really capture the whole animal. In person, it's a lot different. It's like taking a picture of a sunset. It's not really the same as in real life."

Smith does not want the hybrid format to be used in the future.

"I think at this point, parents and leaders are getting a little nervous that if it doesn't change back, it will probably never change back," Smith said, "and that's a big disappointment to the kids because they worked so hard on these animals."

The 4-Hers have discussed the issues with fair and committee officials and plan to present their case again in the coming days, but auction representatives said the format is set for this year, no changes will be made and that the participants were made aware of the plan before registering.