Nonprofit event herds livestock back to fairgrounds

Photos by Marlena Sloss/The Herald
Grace Kluemper, 13, of Jasper, shows Nala during the cattle show at the 2020 Dubois County Youth Open Show at the Dubois County 4-H Fairgrounds in Bretzville on Monday. Grace said she was nervous and excited before the show.


BRETZVILLE — It’s not about the flashy rides, the fried food or the tricky carnival games.

To area youth who show livestock, the Dubois County 4-H Fair means something more. It marks the culmination of hours of raising and training at home — as well as an opportunity to compete against and connect with close friends.

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, however, this year’s iteration of the annual animal spectacle will shift to an online format. But that doesn’t mean all Dubois County fairgrounds barns will remain dormant in July.

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A recently-launched nonprofit organization has stepped up to allow kids and young adults to safely exhibit their animals in a familiar place. Organized by Dubois County Youth Livestock Supporters Inc., the 2020 Dubois County Youth Open Show began early Monday morning and will wrap up in the cattle barn later tonight.

About 50 participants signed up to show swine, cattle, sheep and goats at the private event, which is not affiliated with 4-H. The first-time show gave youth a chance to highlight all their hard work.

Asher Lichlyter, 2, of Huntingburg, sprays Pepper the pig with the help of Hannah Schwenk, 17, of Jasper, at the pig show at the 2020 Dubois County Youth Open Show at the Dubois County 4-H Fairgrounds in Bretzville on Monday.

It also afforded graduating seniors an in-person experience to help bookend the conclusions of their exhibiting careers.

“We still wanted to give the kids — and especially the seniors — kind of like an opportunity,” said Adria Giesler, one of the nonprofit’s four directors. “And really just some closure, just with everything happening this year, to still be able to exhibit their animals. Because there’s lots and lots of money that go into animals that not everybody realizes. And not only money, but more time than anything.”

The new livestock show was free and open to any Dubois County youth who wanted to exhibit their animals. One of them, Cody Scherle, a recent Jasper High School graduate, has shown animals for 10 years.

Like other 4-Hers, he raises and competes with more than just one species. Sheep, cattle, pigs and goats are all in his wheelhouse. Though not directly connected to this week’s county livestock show, Scherle spoke highly of his decade in the 4-H program.

He believes the community is “great for character development,” developing communication skills and exploring opportunities in the livestock field, he said.

He understands that the decision to ultimately take the 4-H fair online was a difficult one, but he spoke Monday of the excitement he felt when he learned the 2020 Dubois County Youth Open Show would give him the chance to be back around his peers again.

Adam Jochem, 17, of St. Henry, center, talks with William Sickbert, 11, of Huntingburg, right, and his brother, Clayton, 9, left, at the cattle show at the 2020 Dubois County Youth Open Show at the Dubois County 4-H Fairgrounds in Bretzville on Monday.

After putting in the time, effort and money needed to raise his livestock, getting to show off his hard work and accomplishments at the show is “pretty cool, in my eyes,” he said. Though smaller than the annual 4-H events, a recurring phrase brought up in interviews with organizers and participants was that this week’s gathering was for the kids.

“This is for us kids to get out and show,” said Allyson Werner, a recent Forest Park Junior-Senior High School graduate who shows cattle and pigs. “And enjoy showing. Because that’s what we all love to do.”

Organizers worked with the Dubois County Health Department to receive approval of a safety plan for the event. On-site bathrooms are sanitized every few hours. Pens and bleachers are disinfected following each show. Bottles of hand sanitizer are placed around the facility, and face masks and gloves are available for guests.

Dubois County Youth Livestock Supporters received generous donations from local businesses, residents and farms ahead of this week’s event, Giesler said. She doesn’t know if the nonprofit will host another livestock show in the future, but she did say the group will continue to support community organizations.

“We were fortunate that we have a great community that really supports this kind of stuff,” Giesler said, adding that a lot of great people helped bring this week’s event to life. “Because without them, we really couldn’t have.”

The virtual Dubois County 4-H Fair will take place July 13-17.

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