Eli Standley has shown animals at the Tyler County Fair since the third grade Photo courtesy of Eli Standley
By Jacob Spivey
AgriLife Extension Agent
If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that nothing stays the same. Back in April when the Tyler County Fair Board made the decision, in the beginning days of the Covid-19 pandemic, that we would proceed to tag steers and plan on having a county fair it became my goal, to make sure we would have a county fair no matter what obstacles we may face.
Ultimately, in working within the confines of the county requirements and the state orders, we had to make some changes. Nobody on the fair board wanted to see changes, but the goal was to have the kids get as much normalcy as possible. With that in mind, in order to follow the guidelines we were given, we had to space out the schedule, we had to add additional seating, and we had to cancel a few things. We didn’t want to cancel anything that would take an opportunity away from a kid, but we were unable to have our carnival, and we had to cancel the barbecue cook-off. Other than that, we were able to keep all our livestock, ag mechanics, home economics, and art show opportunities for our kids. There have been numerous challenges, a few false starts, and a few times we were worried, but the time is here, and our kids get to show.
Abby LeBlanc, of Spurger, lovingly tends to her rabbits. Photo courtesy of Abby LeBlanc
In my family, they know that I profess that for me, the holiday season beginnings that weekend in October when we kick off the county fair, it is, for me the most wonderful time of the year, and it’s a thrill to see the best parts of our community showcased, our hard working people, and their generous spirit.
In the last few weeks I got a chance to talk to a couple of our long-time showman about their projects for this year and what has been different as they get ready for the 2020 Tyler County Fair. Abby LeBlanc is a Junior at Spurger High School where she takes dual credit classes in preparation to be a member of the Fighting Aggie class of 2026. Abby has been a member of 4H for several years and enjoys learning new things about agriculture. Abby has shown since she was in the PeeWee division, and this year she is showing a steer, Rip, a pen of broilers and a pen of rabbits. I asked Abby what she liked best about showing and the Tyler County Fair and she said “I love the Tyler County Fair because we are all one big family. Showing for me is about the love of animals, but I also get to meet other students my age that enjoy the same thing. We all like competition, but no matter where you are if a trailer breaks down or you need to borrow a show stick, someone is always willing to step up and help each other.”
Eli Standley is a senior at Warren High School and a President of the Warren FFA. Eli has shown at the county fair since he was in the third grade. Eli has shown nearly everything at the fair over the years, including a pig and a steer this year. After high school he plans to pursue a degree in sports management. Eli says” The Tyler County Fair is my favorite time of the year, because not only do I get to show off my animals that I’ve worked so hard with during the year, but I also get to relax and enjoy all the parts of the fair with friends and family.” Eli also talked about understanding what it takes to make the Tyler County Fair successful, it’s not just showing up, but that there are countless hours put in by volunteers all year round to make the fair the success it is. He hopes to someday be able to give back to the fair the way he has seen his parents and family do over the year, not just financially, but with time and effort.
To paraphrase the second paragraph of the FFA Creed by E.M. Tiffany, to be engaged in agriculture is pleasant as well as challenging, and our Tyler County Fair kids know the joys and discomforts of agricultural life, whether they are involved with 4-H or FFA, or are Steer Kids, Baking Kids, or all of the above. Ultimately the county fair, is just one of those associations which, even in hours of hours of discouragement, can not be denied. 2020 has been tough, we have had many hours of discouragement in the last eight months, but I believe in my heart of hearts, that Tyler County, The Tyler County Fair, the state of Texas, and the United States of America will rise from the ashes of these challenges, to be stronger and a little more sturdy in the future.
I can believe those things because of young people like Abby and Eli, that again borrowing for the FFA Creed, take it seriously that they can exert an influence on their home and community, so that it can stand solid for years to come. We can look around our country, we can watch TV, and find discouragement on every channel, but I challenge you, this week, come out to the fairgrounds, and see the real future of our country, these young people representing Tyler County, they will be the ones who will lead us into tomorrow. These young people, who are doers, not just talkers, will shape tomorrow, and when I look at those kids, who will spend this week tired, dirty, and worn out, but still willing to lend a helping hand whenever it’s needed, for friend or competitor, I have to think we are in some pretty good hands. And if those hands happen to be a little calloused and have some dirt under their fingernails it’s even better.