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Online auctions an option for some amid fair closings

In California, several county fairs and the state fair have been canceled because of COVID-19. Emily Wilson, 17, of Dixon, California, has been showing poultry for six years and was looking forward to showing two lambs and a herd of dairy goats this summer.

“The state fair is always a pretty big deal for me and my sisters because this is where we really get to show off our family project, our dairy goats,” she says. “We look forward to that show the most because it is the most rewarding fair and we go up against some of the best known goat breeders in California.” Last year, one of Wilson’s goats was named reserve junior champion, and almost all of the family’s goats placed in the upper half of their classes.

Local fairs offer options

Her first event of the year, the Dixon May Fair, was also canceled, but an online auction was held to help those showing recoup some of their costs. “When I heard about the fair being canceled I was very disappointed, but when they announced there would be an online auction, it gave me a sense of relief knowing that I would not be at a total loss with my project,” she says.

Wilson says the online auction was a very different experience than showing in person. “The first major difference is that you don’t get the same adrenaline rush you have in person, and I noticed I was much more anxious with the online auction,” she says. “Instead of having your animal on the auction block for a minute or so, it is up for three days. My lamb did not get his first bid until the morning of the second day, and didn’t get any other bids until the last 10 minutes.”

One thing she did like about the online auction is that she was able to select the best photo of her lamb. “There was plenty of time to get your animal prettied up to take perfect pictures and upload, while at an in-person auction, you have to hope your animal behaves and doesn’t get dirty when you are about to go up.”

Wilson says she felt she could’ve bumped the bids up a little more at an in-person auction because she would’ve been able to talk with potential buyers. “The online auction did have a really neat feature though where people could donate money to a specific kid even if they weren’t buying his or her project. Even though this was not the same as an in-person auction, I am extremely grateful that the fair went out of its way so we could still show off and sell our projects.”

Wilson’s home county fair, the Solano County Fair, is normally held between the May Fair and California State Fair. It announced this week it is also cancelling, but will hold a one-day in-person show for market livestock (no showmanship or breeding stock) as an alternative to the normal week-long event. “I am excited that there will be at least one fair for the local youth to attend this year,” Wilson says.

Looking ahead to 2021

Wilson and her sisters are trying to find a silver lining in this year’s cancellations, and they are already working on next year’s fairs.

“We are using this year to better our goats by spending extra time training them and taking more time to study them to determine what we would change about each individual goat so we can have even better goats after breeding again this fall,” she says. “We are also practicing and studying so we can all become better showmen than last year.”

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