"There were a few tears shed," 4-H exhibitor reacts to WI State Fair canceled

Posted at 10:23 PM, May 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-29 13:52:02-04

BURLINGTON, Wis. — For the first time in 75 years, the Wisconsin State Fair will not go on. The coronavirus pandemic has lead to the cancellation. But it is not just vendors and business losing out, kids in 4-H and Future Farmers of America (FFA), who work all year to show their agriculture projects also lose out.

“It is heartbreaking,” said Riley Runkel, 15, 4-H member. “There were a few tears shed.”

The Burlington teen won Grand Champion for her steer, the top prize. She then got to sell him at the Governor’s Blue Ribbon Auction. That money went to the cost of the steer and her college fund.

This year, Riley bought Jetson, her new steer. She has been working with him since the fall to show him this summer.

“It’s hard to hear as an exhibitor because you know already know how much is put into them. And it feels like it’s all just wasted,” said Riley Runkel.

Raising champion steer is a family affair for the Runkels, Riley’s brother Reid won top prize in 2018. Reid planned this year to be his final year showing at state. He has been raising his steer Kenny since the fall. Both teens spend their own money buying their cows, feeding and taking care of them.

“For all the money that we put in to these things and all the time we put into them and how bad we actually win or just show our animal. And we don’t get to do that. So it really sucks,” said Reid Runkel 18.

The Wisconsin Livestock Expo posted on its Facebook page it is planning a 2020 show for kids. The Runkel family said it would be an alternative to state fair, but it is too early to say how it would work.

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