Livestock shows remain a staple in the area, but there seemed to be an event missing for locals wanting to show.
A dedicated group of enthusiasts decided to help make a change and bring the events back to the Platte County Fair this summer. For a decade, the livestock barn on the property of the Platte County Fairgrounds in Tracy, Mo. went mostly unused and unnoticed during the four-day event.
For Ruth Nelson, the idea that the longest running fair west of the Mississippi River no longer had a staple livestock show didn’t sit right. She approached the Platte County Fair board and asked to use the facility again, receiving approval.
The 154th Platte County Fair will feature a sheep and goat show on Friday, July 21, swine and small animal show on Saturday, July 22 and a cattle show on Sunday, July 23.
“We’ve been humbled by the support the community has shown to bring back the livestock show to Platte County,” said Nelson, president of the Platte County Livestock Boosters. “A number of families are looking forward to having a show in their hometown again.”
The reunion of the Platte County Fair and livestock shows seems a natural fit.
The history dates back to 1863, but the 10-year hiatus precludes this from being a 154th annual show. The timeline starts anew after the tradition quietly went by the wayside after 2007.
Monty Kay Clark used to run the annual event, but she handed over control after the 2006 shows, and with little fanfare, livestock simply went away after 2007.
Involved in 4-H and the Platte County Fair livestock show since her youth, Clark started running the horse show each year. She didn’t want to see the livestock show go away but also had grown weary of the three-day grind.
In addition, participation was dwindling, and the livestock barn’s location started to overlap with parking.
Long-running night shows gave way to daytime shows in an effort to coexist, but Clark hoped a change in leadership could help rejuvenate livestock’s presence at the fair. Instead, her replacement didn’t last past the first year, and no one stepped up to fill the void.
“It was a lot of work,” said Clark, who spent about four decades involved with Platte County livestock shows. “We had some really big shows and a lot of kids that came. Some of the dynamics of the livestock industry and the kids showing got smaller. I felt like a younger person coming in would have new ideas. You know you get into a rut and you start doing the same thing over and over.”
Two years ago, Nelson moved to Platte County from Oklahoma, with her daughter Paisley Nelson, then eight, involved in livestock showing.
The Nelsons competed in the Missouri State Fair and then came home with an idea of bringing a livestock show back to Platte County. Nelson and Doyle Leefers brought the idea to the Platte County Fair board in December after talking with local 4-H chapters and the Future Farmers of America chapters at West Platte and North Platte high schools and Northland Career Center in Platte City to provide numbers on local youths interested in showing at the fair.
“The board was very excited and all on board,” Nelson said. “They welcomed having agriculture back making a presence at the fair.”
Early returns have backed up Nelson’s enthusiasm.
“We had a phenomenal year of fundraising and that tells me there is the need and desire,” she said. “These local families went out and solicited sponsorships, and these families in Platte County are young and that makes us believe this is sustainable.”
The Platte County Fair board agreed to provide some renovations to the livestock barn area.
Money was put into an upgraded electrical system along with water lines and additional hydrants to make sure exhibitors were able to properly take care of the animals. The board also hopes to provide additional support in prize money along with the potential of more renovations, including updates to lighting and upgrades to the stalls.
The board often discussed bringing back the livestock show but didn’t have the right avenue before this year. There was no real question on whether or not to provide the initial support with hopes that they can help grow it again.
“It didn’t really have anything to do with the money part,” said Platte County Fair board president Gary Fleming. “We were looking for somebody to bring the livestock back. We thought it was good for the community to bring it back.
“This is what our fair was based on is agricultural, so we’re excited.”
Prior to a June 30 deadline, the Platte County livestock show received 115 early entries. Nelson said she continues to receive daily calls asking for information, and entries will still be taken the day of the shows.
Most of the entries have come from Platte and adjoining counties in Missouri, and while organizers still don’t know what to expect in terms of totals, they believe they will be able to accommodate everyone.
For youth veterans, this show will be preparation for the Missouri State Fair later in the summer. However, entrants do not need to be experienced in exhibiting animals, and organizers welcome anyone under the age of eight to come and gain experience in feeding, grooming and showcasing.
In addition, there will be Pee Wee shows each day to allow youth a chance to show other people’s animals. Saturday’s small animal show will feature rabbits and chickens but could also include llamas, guinea pigs and more.
After this year’s show, the boosters will evaluate and look at ways to improve and grow the show moving forward.
“Each day is species specific so we shouldn’t have overcrowding,” Nelson said. “Our goal is not to exclude anybody; it’s to include everybody.”
While Clark will have her horse show duties Saturday, she’s happy to have the livestock show back at the fair and has confidence in Nelson and the Platte County Livestock Boosters bringing the tradition back. Once disappointed in the show’s absence, Clark was happy to see the right people step up.
“It’s wonderful. In talking with Ruth and the conversations, we’ve had it seems like a very capable group,” Clark said.
And will Clark have time to visit and watch? She wouldn’t miss it.
“It’s kind of in my blood, in my heart definitely,” Clark said.