Some changes are in store for the 4-H/FFA Expo, set for July 15-18 at the Dent County Commons. But plans are still moving forward for the annual event.

Outside of numerous adjustments to ensure the health and safety of exhibitors and spectators during the pandemic, probably the biggest changes are moving the annual livestock sale to 9 a.m. on Saturday and eliminating the buyers’ luncheon.

The decision was made recently by the junior livestock committee not to hold any large group meals, including 4-H gatherings and the traditional luncheon for livestock bidders, FFA advisor Lane Howard said. With no noon event to plan around, “We decided to move up the auction to try and speed things up a little bit for teardown and heat purposes,” he said.

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Extension livestock specialist John Langdon agreed a morning auction is a good idea.

“It’ll be cooler on the animals, less stressful for them and also the people, and will probably help us organize the day a little better,” he said. “We can go ahead and get that done, and if people want to do other things in the evening, they’re freed up to do that, like help clean up.”

Howard said a primary concern about the auction was being able to get the meat processed at area butcher shops that are currently backed up with livestock due to large processors operating at limited capacity.

Processing for the Expo is normally done at Zimmerman Meats, Salem Butcher Shop, Mary's Valley Meat Processing and Hobson’s Butcher Block.

“Zimmerman, Salem (Butcher Shop) and Mary’s Valley told us they would take around their normal amount that they usually do,” Howard said. Hobson’s is booked up until May of 2021, but the others should be able to take up the slack, he said.

Smaller show rings will be in place for the sale to allow more seating for the large number of people who usually attend. “That way can set up more chairs for more individual seating for people to spread them out a little bit,” Howard said.

Other group events like the talent show and movie night were eliminated.

“That’s to kind of minimize the amount of congregating that goes on,” he said. “We’re just making sure that people stay spread out and have as little interaction as possible with groups they’re not normally interacting with.”

Howard said the event will feature signage on social distancing, handwashing stations and portable bathrooms. No participant record books will be required at the Expo to prevent things changing hands. Records will be kept online.

“We’ll be continuing to ask the families to be outside the barns while they’re not showing, and set up their tents outside the barns where they can all kind of gather and be a little more spread out,” he said. “We’re trying to discourage people from watching more livestock than whenever their kid is showing.”

The annual marketing meeting was changed to feature groups smaller than 10 last week. FFA students received individual visits and committee members met with 4-H exhibitors as a group, but as a smaller group.

“We’re also promoting social distancing, and trying to stay six feet away from people as much as possible,” Howard said. “And if you’re sick, stay home. That’s just the normal for right now.”

The junior livestock committee confirmed plans for the dessert auction at a meeting last week. “The plan is to still have it, as long as we can,” Howard said.

With the constantly changing situation with COVID-19, nothing is assured at this point, Langdon said.

“We’re all trying to figure this thing out as we go,” he said. “Who knows? Some of this may change too as we go forward.”

The revised schedule currently looks like this:

Wednesday, July 15

Dessert Entry - 3-5 p.m.

Dessert Auction - 6 p.m.

Thursday, July 16

Livestock in Place 11 a.m. (no exceptions)

Livestock Weigh-ins starting with beef 1 p.m.

Friday, July 17

Hog Show - 7 a.m.

Sheep/Goat Show to follow hog show

Small Animal Show - 1 p.m.

Beef /Dairy Show - 2 p.m.

Saturday, July 18

4-H/FFA Market Sale - 9 a.m.