The Ohio State Fair has concluded and, by the end of the month, the majority of county fairs in the state will have taken place. As a County Extension Educator and cattle producer who has two daughters who love to show cattle, I am fully aware of the time and effort of a large number of people who work together to make shows and exhibitions possible. This list of people includes the exhibitors, family members, breeders, veterinarians, club advisors, award sponsors, show management, and other volunteers working behind the scenes. There are countless hours of time and significant dollars dedicated to the successful completion of a show. So, why do we do it?
While I was not around when the concept of holding livestock shows began, I can speculate that the goals of those involved were relatively simple. Especially at the county level, I suspect fairs were started as a means to showcase local agricultural production, learn about new technologies, and let folks learn about what was considered the industry standard for a species of animal for that day. I'm sure that some folks were motivated by making a little bit of profit off the event as well.
Before we had much of the modern technology that is available to us today, fairs and shows gave folks the opportunity to evaluate an animal's conformation by an unbiased expert (judge) and help educate the public as to the "ideal" animal for producers to target at that time. We can look back and question the logic of some of the historical decisions that were made.
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