Cows, Cancellations, and a Community Carrying On

Natalie Davis

Every March, millions of people travel to the NRG stadium to perform and participate in the momentous and roaring Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, HLSR. This year after only nine days, Houston was silent.

In the 89 years the  HLSR has been around it has only been cancelled twice: once in 1937 due to a fire and this year, 2020 from the worldwide pandemic. The HLSR and the Montgomery County Fair are two of the biggest opportunities for Future Farmers of America, FFA, students to show and sell their animals; the cancellation of these two events impacts the agriculture community immensely. 

“I have been in the agriculture community since I was six months old, and I have been in FFA since I was in third grade,” senior and president of Montgomery FFA Bayleigh Norman said. “After almost ten year in FFA, not showing my senior year was horrible.” 

Norman, along with thousands of other high school seniors, have worked their way up to their final show only to have the occasion stripped from them. Norman said she had always dreamed of showing steers and her first and last time was senior year.

“In these hours of discouragement and these hard times, I’ve come to the realization that things like this are going to happen and there are things that you can’t control,” Norman said. “To gain some control, we decided to put my steer up for an online auction.”

There have been multiple alternatives for students to sell their animals. The day after Houston was cancelled, BCR Ranch in Brenham put together an entire show for Heifers. There was also an online show called Lockdown Showdown Virtual Jackpot where students dressed in show gear, videoed them showing their animals, and submitted these videos by email. Judges were able to watch and judge the animals without having to travel. Norman won division champion and won Grand Champion American in that division through that virtual show.

“The cancellation of the Montgomery County Fair took away my chance to run for Fair Queen,” junior Taylor Bohac said. 

The Montgomery County Fair has been around for 62 years. Fair Queen applications begin months prior in October and the applicants have meetings and other forms of training throughout the time before the fair. Seventeen girls from all over Montgomery County were competing in this event.

“The most heartwarming thing was how the agriculture community came together,” Norman said. “We as ag people are a part of the biggest industry in the entire world. Ag will be there tomorrow, the next day and every day after; there’s never not going to be a need for agriculture. There is nothing better than to stick together during this time.”