As with many other B.C. Fairs, the BC Agricultural Exposition, held annually in Barriere on the last weekend in September, starts planning for the next year’s fair, immediately after the current year’s fair has ended. By the time the March Committee meeting rolled around, the world around us was shutting down fast, as fears of Covid-19 grew; the NHL had cancelled their games, and Broadway was dark. Events with more than 250 people in attendance were prohibited. Committee member Brent Hamblin stated we should be devising a plan in case Covid-19 was still causing problems at fair time. But, how could that happen, with the fair over six months away?
As conditions worsened, with many businesses required to close, and gatherings limited to 50, the Committee decided to create a Virtual Show & Sale for 4-H and Open Youth. 4-H Beef Members traditionally purchase their next year’s project in the Fall, and also invest up to eight months of feed in them by June. The Committee felt obligated to proceed with a Show & Sale of some sort. Online bidding became common at BC Bull Sales by the end of March, as only one buyer from each ranch was allowed in the auction ring. Bulls could be viewed outside in the yards before the Sales. Virtual Shows started appearing on the internet in April. Having BC Ag Expo in September turned out to be advantageous, as we could learn from the experiences of others. Many prairie 4-H Shows & Sales were held in May and June.
BC Ag Expo had already purchased ShoWorks software, and Committee member Laura-Ann Farquharson created the database and online entries for our traditional ‘in-person’ fair, during the late Winter / early Spring. Moving to a virtual show meant re-writing all the rules and regulations, including criteria for photo, video and document submissions, and creating a new online entry database. This wasa group effort led by Laura-Ann Farquharson with Secretary Lynn Graham and Committee members Brent Hamblin and Glenda Feller, and with input from the Division reps. The online entries went ‘live’ in late July, with classes for Beef, Cavy, Goat, Lamb, Photography and Rabbits, as well as Educational displays, Fred Nichol, Twemlow and Boundary Dash competitions. BC Ag Expo had over 125 4-H and Open Youth participate from the Cariboo, Shurswap, Okanagan, Boundary, and the TNRD Areas.
BC Ag Expo also needed to have an online auction for members to be able to market and sell their projects. The Committee made a decision to use DLMS Farm Gate Timed Auctions. Committee members Brent Hamlin and Julieanne Puhallo-Brown created slideshows for the BC Ag Expo website as well as Facebook and the Auction site, showcasing the various classes, Champions, and auction items which included Beef, Lamb, Photographs, a Chevon Goat and a Rabbit. The online auction went well with over 70 bidders signed in over the 52 hours with bidding wars right to the end. The 4-H members and Open Youth received great overall prices for their projects.
This year’s BC Ag Expo Virtual Fair was definitely a learning experience and took many people, in various roles, to successfully execute it, and a success it was! We are ready for whatever next year brings!