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Dairy parents steaming over fair changes
chatom 4-H pic
Chatom 4-H kids gather around a cow during the Chatom Elementary Ag Appreciation Day in May. This year Chatom 4-H will have the only dairy cows represented during the entire run of the fair. - photo by JONATHAN MCCORKELL / The Journal

Tempers are flaring among some 4-H and FFA dairy parents over what they say is a major scheduling debacle by the Stanislaus County Fair.

For nearly four decades the county fair has held dairy cow judging, showings and sales from the first day the fair opens to the public to the last. But this year the fair changed the schedule and the vast majority of at least 300 dairy cows will only be on public display the first weekend of the fair. The initial judging will begin July 10, three days before the fair opens on July 13.

The fair recently invited Chatom 4-H to remain for the entire 10-day run of the fair to represent the dairy industry, while remaining 4-H and FFA clubs will be required to leave .Chatom 4-H has more than 80 cows that will be at the fair.

Numerous Chatom 4-H parents, including Tammy Moreno and Kathy Blount, said this predicament has created internal tension among not only the Chatom 4-H community but also with the other 4-H and FFA clubs that plan on participating in the fair.

“I really feel bad for the other 4-H clubs that want to be there but cannot now,” Moreno said.

Fair officials said the decision was made to ease overcrowding. Fair chief executive officer Chris Borovansky said the fair does not turn away FFA and 4-H children who wish to show animals at the fair and that a sharp increase of over 250 animals, including 105 more dairy cows, led the fair to make the decision to limit the number of days all dairy cattle can remain on fair grounds.

“I’m not sure why they are making a big deal out of this. This has been a two-year process in which we had the Livestock Committee, made up of members of the dairy industry, discuss this. We held public comment and the Fair Board approved it,” he said. “There is no way we are going to make everyone happy and we simply don’t have enough room for all the animals. It is a juggling act.”

Another issue, according to Moreno, is the rescheduling of the dairy replacement heifer sale. The annual sale brings local farmers to the fair to buy dairy cows raised by 4-H and FFA members. In the past the dairy sale was held on the last Friday of the fair’s run, but this year it will be held on the first Friday.

“The dairy sale and beef sales have always been on different Fridays. The dairymen I’ve talked to did not know the fair has changed the schedule and it could lead to less sales for the kids,” Moreno said.

Borovansky indicated that dairy industry buyers will be receiving a letter notifying them of the change.

“Our goals are all the same; we want to give the kids the best opportunity to show their animals and the best experience possible,” said Borovansky.

“I feel like the fair is pitting us all against each other and that we (Chatom) are now in a rock and hard place. I feel for the kids in all 4-H and FFA because now the fair is going to be a ‘go, show, and leave’ kind of event. The county fair has always been about the highlight of the year for the kids. The socializing and relationships they build can last their entire lives. Now they won’t have that time to meet others and learn from others,” said Blount. “We will work to correct this issue for next year.”