No fair? No problem. FFA and 4-H members across Iowa are ready to participate in the 2020 Iowa State Fair Special Edition livestock shows, despite disruptions and cancellations caused by the COVID-19 outbreak.

All 2020 Iowa State Fair ev­­ents, apart from the FFA and 4-H livestock shows, have been postponed until next year in a bid to limit spread of the COVID-19 virus. Fair organizers nevertheless saw the value to Iowa’s youth to continue with animal exhibits and judging, to: “support the mission statement of the Iowa State Fair by providing an opportunity for Iowa 4-H and FFA youth to showcase their hard work and livestock projects,” the fair’s website states.

Learning many skills

And working hard they are. In Boone County, 14-year-old Tyler Osborn has been caring for, and training, a Jersey heifer named Freezer. 

“I have some health concerns, but I’m really happy they’re still doing the fair this year,” Osborn’s mom, Barb Clawson, said. 

Osborn has Down syndrome, but through raising and showing animals at the county and state level, he has gained many great life skills.

“This will definitely help him down the road as he learns a trade,” she said.

Specifically, as a member of Harrison Hilltop Hustlers 4-H club, Osborn has learned about caring and raising his cattle, from washing and feeding them, to walking with Freezer on a halter every day preparing her for the show ring. There is also the social aspect of the judging process and learning patience with himself and his animals when things don’t go as planned.

“I stay hands off as much as possible during the shows, and in my experience, both the county and state fair have been very inclusive and accommodating,” Clawson said.

Unfortunately, Osborn’s favorite part of the fair won't be available to him this year — staying overnight in the cattle barn with his animals. 

But Osborn said he will get to stay at a hotel, which is OK, too.

Teaching moments

Leila Shetter, 15, of Marshall County will take her second trip to the Iowa State Fair this year, showing Simmental cattle through East Marshall FFA.

Shetter isn't a farm kid, but thanks to the mentorship of Brittney Tow, she has learned a lot of important lessons in three years of working with cattle.

“It is a lot of work to get ready for the fair,” Shetter said. “I’m here five mornings a week cleaning, blowing and feeding the cattle.”

Shetter will show cattle from Tow’s parent’s farm, near Dunbar. Tow showed animals growing up and wanted to continue to help students gain these experiences. 

That led her first to start working with younger cousins, then family friends and eventually with students from East Marshall High School. 

Shetter got involved after a friend of hers started working with Tow. This year, she will show a heifer and a cow-calf pair.

“It been a really fun process, getting the cows ready for state,” Shetter said.

A few changes

For Josie and Maddie Mowrer, members of the Luther Livewires 4-H club of Boone County, this year’s county fair seemed relatively normal.

“We haven’t changed too much here,” said Josie, 14, who shows Hampshire/Suffolk sheep. “We’re trying to be more careful when we go out and show. We keep an open pen between us (and other participants) and use disinfectant.”

Maddie, 13, who shows Boer cross meat goats, says the precautions at the state fair this year don’t affect how she raises or cares for her livestock.

“I’ve learned you can really connect with the animals, you gain a special bond with them,” she said. “Training them really is all about repetition and practice.”

The animal judging will take place at the state fairgrounds over the next three weekends, Aug. 6-8, Aug. 13-15 and Aug. 20-22. 

Unlike years past, the animal exhibits and judging are closed to the public. More information is available online at