Q&A with Jim Floyd
Occupation: Livestock and youth director, the Georgia National Fair
Q: What’s going on in your area of the Georgia National Fair during the next dozen days or so?
A: We’re having the fair’s livestock shows and competitions for Georgia 4-H and FFA young people.
Q: Isn’t that the sort of thing fairs were traditionally created to do?
A: It is. The reason fairs were started all across the country was to give young 4-H-ers, Future Farmers of America members and the like the chance to show off their year-long projects. The fairs were mainly about home crafts, agriculture and the kids getting together to show their livestock and ag projects. A lot of fairs have left that concept and are actually suffering for it. Most of the ones who’ve kept it strong are doing well.
Q: How’s the Georgia National Fair doing with that?
A: Very well, very well. In fact, the reason -- the main reason -- this facility was built in the first place was to give our youth a quality setting to display their agricultural and livestock projects and help promote agriculture and commerce through programs like Georgia Grown. All the circus-type stuff, the rides and entertainment, are added on and a lot of fun, but the thing that brought it all into being was agriculture and youth programs.
Q: How many young people will come show their animals during the fair?
A: Around 2,000.
Q: Wow! That’s a lot. What ages?
A: From age 9 to seniors in high school.
Q: What sort of livestock shows do you have?
A: A lot of different ones. Our junior shows and competitions on the first weekend include beef showmanship, our steer show, heifer show, dairy heifer show, swine showmanship, market swine show, breeding gilt show, breeding ewe show, dairy heifer show, market lamb show, market goat show and others.
Q: What’s the difference between those terms?
A: It boils down to showmanship, which is how the participant handles and shows off their animal. The other involves the animal itself. Judges look at muscle, leanness versus fat, potential for growth, balance of the animal from front to rear -- a whole bunch of things.
Q: This is something the kids work toward all year, right?
A: Yes. These are their project animals, and they get very involved. They not only learn how to care for their animal but it teaches day-to-day responsibility and important life skills. Ethics and character development is a big part. During the fair, you’ll find them out enjoying the rest of the entertainment, but I guarantee most of the time they’re in the stalls taking care of their animals making sure they’re in top shape.
Q: Is there anything for the regular fair visitors at these events as spectators?
A: They’re welcome to watch and I think they’ll get a lot out of it. And be impressed. We give spectators what we call judge-along sheets that explain what’s going on and what judges are looking for. They can score events and compare their results with what the judges decide. There’s a lot you can learn. Visitors are also welcome to go through the barns and look at the animals while they’re here. Participants are usually more than happy to talk about their animals and answer questions. They take a lot of pride in them.
Q: When are the shows and competitions at the fairgrounds?
A: Shows are on the weekends but there are animals to see all through the fair. We have similar events in February, too, and we’re expanding some events beyond the state to draw from the entire southeast. Another entertaining thing we have during the fair is our legislative livestock showdown. What happens is state representatives and senators come for a day and our young people teach them about the animals and how to show them. Then the legislators compete. It’s gotten pretty competitive between the House and Senate.
Q: What else is there to say?
A: I don’t think I mentioned llamas. There are llamas, rabbits and other animals competing. There are plenty of horse events throughout the fair, also. Every day except the last Sunday.
Q: Is there a way people can get an idea ahead of time what’s going on and when?
A: At georgianationalfair.com you can go to Your Fair and find Livestock under Programs and get a schedule. People should check us out. There are schools and groups who take field trips and you know what -- some of those kids have never seen a real cow or a pig. It’s good for most of us to realize a little about what it takes to raise these animals.
Answers may have been edited for length and clarity. Compiled by Michael W. Pannell. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.