Pandemic or Not, Fairs Find Creative Ways to Hold Livestock Auctions

At a young age, many kids spend their time participating in activities such as sports, or learning to play instruments. Ten-year-old Xara Myers chose a different route.

For the last five years, Xara has devoted her time to working with animals. As a member of the Shasta County 4-H, she has developed skills Myers says she’s gained because of the program.

“I wanted to be part of 4-H because I enjoy animals,” Xara said. “It is also an opportunity to learn life lessons about agriculture and responsibility.”

Xara believes 4-H has provided other benefits that go beyond working with animals. “It builds confidence, and gives us an opportunity to show what we have been working hard for.”

Xaras’ mother, Heather Myers, agreed.

“4-H is a family activity,” Myers said. “It teaches skills that translate into a real-life business. Our youth learn to support one another, even if it means their friend may win. It has been a blessing to see my children grow through mentorship with senior 4-H youth and caring leaders.”

Each June, members of the Shasta County 4-H participate in a live auction at the Shasta District Fairgrounds where they show their animals and auction them to the highest bidder.

Myers said the annual event is much more than an auction.

“It is an opportunity for us to shine and learn in the show ring,” Myers said. “The auction is a way for people to feed their families with quality food when the stores are having a hard time getting meat.”

According to the Shasta District Fair (SDF) website, the livestock auction is “the backbone to the Shasta District Fair.”

In a typical year, 4-H kids spend the time leading up to the fair raising and caring for their animals. When the fair arrives, they are on site, showing their animals to fair-goers before the animals appear before judges.

The participating 4-H kids receive placement ribbons to recognize their hard work.

Following the exhibition portion of the fair, the animals are then auctioned off at the Junior Livestock Auction in which each animal goes to the highest bidder.

However, this year hasn’t been a typical year. This year faced a challenge no one saw coming: the COVID-19 pandemic.

As the virus spread, counties had to make difficult decisions regarding their respective fairs, which ultimately would also impact the 4-H events.

Just south of Shasta County, regardless of the fair’s cancellation, Tehama District Fair administration sought a way to honor the hard work of the kids and still continue with an auction.

“It was important to us from the beginning to ensure that every exhibitor had a platform to sell their animals,” said Mandy Staley, Tehama District Fair CEO.

“Market projects are a large investment for every kid,” Staley said. “We could not stand the thought of them being stuck with their animal.”

When Tehama County District Fair encountered coronavirus restrictions that eliminated the option for live auctions, the fair administration went for Plan B, and held online auctions on May 16 and 17.

“There was a lot involved in switching to an online auction,” Staley said. “From the beginning we involved our exhibitors, leaders and community members in the decision-making process in order to make the auction as convenient as possible for everyone involved.”

She explained that the biggest challenge was the unknown, but they proceeded despite the uncertainty.

Staley said there were some unexpected benefits of transitioning to an online auction format from the traditional live-auction system.

“Throughout this process we have had to expand our mindset, and reinvent the wheel to host an online sale,” Staley said. “This gave us new ideas for future sales, for instance next year we plan to include an online bidding platform with our live sale.”

The online auction proved that once again, the community would rally together during a difficult situation.

“It has been a true testament of Tehama County,” Staley said.

As of May 26, the Tehama County Jr. Livestock auction brought in $715,000 with 283 lots. Staley said the numbers continue to rise.

Because Tehama County District Fair was one of the first fairs to try the online-auction route, they inadvertently paved the way for other counties to follow in their footsteps.

Before making a decision about the Shasta County fair and the 4-H auctions, B.J. Macfarlane, Shasta District Fair CEO, joined other fellow fair administrators as they closely watched as circumstances changed regarding COVID-19 public health mandates regarding events that involved large gatherings.

Consequently, on May 14 Macfarlane sent a press release that announced the board’s decision to cancel the fair.

While Macfarlane did not respond to interview requests, an excerpt of the press release said: “The Board also voted on continuing with the Jr. Livestock Sale. The Shasta District Fair will be working with local and state officials to use the best option available to promote the Jr Livestock exhibitors.”

For Shasta County 4-H kids and families alike, welcome news arrived about a month later on the Shasta District Fair Facebook page. A post said the Shasta District fair had received permission to operate a modified, in-person livestock auction.

Given the green light to proceed with the in-person 4-H event, the Shasta County District Fair scheduled its junior livestock auction for 8 a.m. on June 27 at the Shasta District Fairgrounds.

Meanwhile, Tehama County Fair CEO Staley remains grateful.

“I cannot say enough how thankful I am to live in a community that rallies around these exhibitors time and time again.


For more information regarding how to purchase a 4-H animal, or how to participate in the upcoming June 27 auction to bid on an animal, visit the Shasta District Fair website


Franchesca Carrera

Franchesca Carrera is a recent Simpson University graduate, where she studied communication and journalism. She spent two years working as a multimedia sports journalist at SU, as well as a semester as the editor-in-chief of the newspaper, the Simpson U Slate. Carrera also spent nine months as an intern at KRCR News Channel 7. Writing, on-camera interviews, editing and producing, Carrera does it all. When she’s not reporting, you can find her with her eyes glued to a TV watching any and every sport. She can be reached at carrera.r.franchesca@gmail.com.

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