The recent announcement of the coronavirus shutting down the Butler County Fair hit Talawanda High School senior Justin Beckner in both his heart and wallet.
Beckner first raised and showed off lambs at the annual summer fair when he was 6 years old.
Later he switched to raising prize-winning hogs at his family’s Jericho Run Farms in Milford Twp. and went on to be the local teen president of Future Farmers of America (FFA) and the 4H Club.
Selling his pigs for an average of $300 during the fair’s livestock auctions was fun and profitable for Beckner, who planned on using his earnings this summer to help pay for tuition when he starts at Miami University in the fall.
“I was very saddened by the closing because this was my last year,” said Beckner.
His story is repeated throughout Butler County as the fair is beloved tradition for agricultural and livestock family businesses throughout the area. Hundreds of boys and girls proudly parade their animals in judging competitions for awards with many putting them up for bidding.
Fair officials are developing plans to conduct limited-participant livestock showings but with no parade of animals and no bidding.
Officials announced their decision to close the annual fair last week saying it was doing so “with great reluctance” and that committees are being created to explore options so that Junior Fair-aged exhibitors may show their projects in “a modified manner.”
The fair was first held in 1851.
More so than most school districts in the county, the largely rural Talawanda school system annually has one of the largest contingencies of teen participants in the livestock shows and auctions.
“The FFA and 4H programs in Talawanda School District are very important,” said Holli Morrish, spokeswoman for Talawanda Schools. “Talawanda students love to showcase what they’ve learned at the Butler County Fair each summer. I am sad for everyone that the pandemic has created circumstances in which the fair had to be canceled.
“So many students earn money through selling the livestock they’ve raised and I know many put that towards furthering their education. I know this will create hardships for many of our young people.”
Beckner, who plans to major in business at Miami, said instead of selling his pigs at the fair he will instead this summer sell them directly to local butchers or to friends.
“I’m pretty disappointed,” he said.
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