The Angelina County Fair Board is hosting a recovery effort telethon from 3-7 p.m. today on KICKS 105 and the fair’s Facebook page to help recoup some of the losses resulting from the COVID-19, coronavirus pandemic.
Board chairman Todd Kassaw encouraged the public to donate any money they would have spent at the fair had it been able to happen. The funds will be distributed among the different exhibitors to help recoup some of the losses.
“One of the things that we said when we issued our press release to cancel the show is that we have to be part of the solution and not part of the problem,” Kassaw said. “So I think, at the end of the day, everyone understands, but they’re still really, really sad. The seniors, especially. This would have been their last opportunity to show.”
In addition to the telethon, the board is hosting an online sale for the animals that would have been shown at the fair. Anyone interested in purchasing an animal can visit angelinacountyfair.com/buyers.
The animals are market-ready, meaning they were ready to purchase this week and can’t wait much longer.
“The average expense, for instance, for a steer is in the neighborhood of $3,000-$4,000,” Kassaw said. “That’s what they would have out of their pocket before we ever get to the county fair.”
If possible, the fair board hopes to have another event this summer to market the arts and crafts, food and other categories, but the animals need to be sold sooner.
Hudson High School seniors Grayson Sims and Clair Slatter have been a part of the county fair for more than a decade now, and this would have been their final year to show animals and compete in the different categories.
The two spend months each year raising their animals — preparing their diets, grooming them, exercising them, forming relationships and more — and preparing their other projects.
“The county fair week is when you get to highlight all the work you’ve put into your projects, but I think the whole experience is not just that week but the months leading up to it,” Grayson said. “It’s a lot of preparation; it’s hard, it’s a lot of work, a lot of responsibility, a lot of discipline, a lot of determination to keep up over those months, but it makes it very, very exciting to look forward to.”
Grayson had four projects this year — a goat project, a woodworking project, a tractor project and a public speaking project. Claire raised a steer, six goats and a pen of rabbits this year. She said she started as soon as summer 2019.
“I think I enjoy the relationships I have built over the years the most,” Claire said. “I have built more friendships this year and the past year, and it’s really encouraging.”
Thoughts of disappointment and sadness ran through both of their heads as they heard the news. Claire said continuing to care for her animals has been getting her through this time.
“The first thing I thought was my last chance to get in the show ring is gone,” Claire said. “My whole theme for this year has been to count my blessings and adjust my goals.”
Grayson went on a mission trip to Spain over spring break, so he has been in a 14-day quarantine. He said he has tried to do simple things to keep his spirits up — building model kits, doing online school work, playing games with friends — but he said it has been hard to make the time go by and still feel productive.
“It would be really exciting for the community to support us still,” Grayson said. “We are truly honored for how much the community supports us. … It means a lot to us.”
Grayson and Claire are missing out on a lot of different experiences and activities this year, potentially even the chance to walk the stage for graduation.
Claire said community support would mean so much to all the seniors and younger students who are out a lot of money and effort during this time.
“One of the things that agriculture teaches our kids is that sometimes things happen that are out of your control, and you just have to cinch up your belt and do what you can,” Kassaw said.
“This is an opportunity for the community to help these kids recoup their expenses and try to give them something back so that they don’t have the sadness of missing it and the financial burden of having to bear all of the expenses by themselves.”