Challenges abound at fair show

Storm affects sale; total down from last year.


August 22, 2018

Ron Warnick

Rilee Nials, 14, of Logan holds two reserve-champion chickens owned by Jenna Lopez of San Jon before Saturday night's Parade of Champions at the Quay County Fair.

A big thunderstorm - the fourth in as many nights - dampened bidding somewhat during the Junior Livestock Sale on Saturday night at the Quay County Fair in Tucumcari.

Forty-nine animals sold for a preliminary total of $131,450 - less than the $133,000 a year ago. The torrential rain, lightning and some hail struck about halfway through the auction, sending spectators on the outdoor bleachers scurrying for cover.

Justin Knight, president of the Quay County Fair board, acknowledged the storm affected bidding.

"We might have lost some of our buyers who just pop in and see whether they'll bid," he said. "But the ones who have been here year in and year out, they stuck it out."

The storm prompted fair officials to leave the remaining animals in the barn and proceed with the auction with only their young owners in the show ring.

"We thought it was best for the kids' safety not to bring the animals in," Knight said, noting the wind gusts and lightning just outside of the arena can agitate them.

Knight said it was the first time in his eight years on the fair board that animals were kept away from the show ring during the auction.

Addie Lafferty, 10, of San Jon had just sold her grand-champion steer for the night's highest bid of $6,500 when the storm began dropping rain in buckets. After a hurried photo with her buyers as droplets of rain fell through a sieve-like shade screen, fair officials moved the rest of the photography sessions indoors to the livestock barn.

Addie's bid came from a buying group that consisted of Dickinson Implement Co., Ray's Truck Service, Will Durrett of Superior Livestock, Don Pederson, Farm Credit, Ty and Leslie Marshall, NuStar Energy, Russell's Travel Center, Caprock Wind, Sen. Pat Woods and the San Jon Buyers Club. Companies and individuals often pool their resources to fatten the bids.

It was a big year for Addie, who not only won the competition's top prize her first year of showing cattle, but she also showed a grand-champion hog.

"I was excited," she said about her experiences at the fair. Her mother, Julie, shook her head over her daughter's fortune.

"My husband and I showed animals when we were younger. I never won grand," Julie Lafferty said. "It's quite a deal for her to win grand the first time she showed. We're pretty proud of her. She put a lot of time and work into it."

Bailey Rhea Smith also sold a steer for $5,000 during the auction. Jason Knight's reserve grand champion steer fetched a $4,800 bid from Citizens Bank.

No animal sold for less than four figures - even a group of chickens sold for $1,100.

"Quay County comes and supports their youth," Justin Knight said.

Persistent rain wreaked other havoc at the fair. Fair officials canceled the horse show because the outdoor arena was too waterlogged. Ken Bennett, general manager of Sun Valley Rides, said he saw a 50 percent to 60 percent drop in carnival ticket sales starting Friday night, when another storm struck.

"We did pretty well before the rain yesterday," Bennett said Saturday night as huge puddles formed in the carnival area. "We're trying to honor as many tickets as we can, but we can't run the tall rides like the Ferris wheel and the Yoyo when there's lightning."

But few residents of the High Plains will complain about rain - even during a county fair.

"As an ag person, we want it to rain," Knight said.

Auctioneer Tony Johnson, who presided over the Junior Livestock Sale, echoed that sentiment.

"We're not going to cuss the rainfall," he said during a break between sales. "It's a great thing."

Disease outbreak affects number of rabbit entries.

By Ron Warnick

QCS Senior Writer

[email protected]

The Quay County Fair in Tucumcari long has been the domain of farm and ranch families. But the fair has seen a growth in participation with livestock that can be raised by city folks.

In recent years, the total number of poultry and rabbit entries at the fair has swelled into the hundreds. This year, the fair recorded 269 poultry entries and 46 rabbits - and the latter number would have been larger if not for a disease outbreak earlier in the year.

Justin Knight, president of the fair board, and other fair officials credited Relissa Nials for the upsurge in local interest in chickens and rabbits.

"She's done an outstanding job," he said. "She like a lot of the fair-board members - they go above and beyond."

Brenda Bishop, director of the Quay County Extension, said Nials was instrumental in landing grants and donations to buy new cages, hutches and a climate-control system for the fair's poultry and rabbit barn.

Nials noted the rabbit and poultry barn allows open entries, whereas the cattle, hog, goat and sheep shows are restricted to FFA and 4-H participants. She saw an opportunity for growth.

"We've got everything from 2-year-olds to people in their 60s entering their chickens," she said.

"A lot of our 4-H and FFA kids are becoming nontraditional," she added. "They're more urban, not rural. Society in general is turning that way, and this is a way to get kids involved in agriculture who otherwise wouldn't have a chance to do it. They don't have the land or finances to buy and feed a larger animal."

Nials said before World War II, rabbits often were a main protein source on Americans' dinner tables. That changed after the war when chicken, pork and beef became cheaper.

She said an outbreak of enteritis - a highly infectious bacterial disease that inflames the intestines - killed a number of rabbits in the region earlier this year and ultimately depressed the county-fair numbers.

But even then, she said, the disease provided a learning opportunity for rabbit owners.

"They had to learn to wash their hands after handling or feeding" to quell the disease's spread, she said.

She said several other rabbit exhibitors, cautious about the outbreak, stayed away this year.

The number of hogs at the fair dropped from 75 to 65 this year, and so did heifers, from 25 to 11. But the fair also saw increases in steers (14 to 18). The number of goats (75) and sheep (33) remained mostly stable.

Quay County Fair officials don't keep attendance figures. But Knight said officials were pleased with the this year's turnout in terms of participants and spectators.

"We're been running smoothly for several years," he said. "There's no need to make changes."


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