Oklahoma youth exhibited more than 15,000 livestock and horse projects at the 2012 Tulsa State Fair. And while only a few youth took home top honors for prized animals, the experiences make them all champions.
“We’re raising champion kids and leaders of tomorrow,” says Brandi Herndon, agribusiness manager of the Tulsa State Fair. “I truly believe that we are raising the best kids. They’re learning everything at a young age from responsibility to leadership skills to communication skills.”
She has heard it from employers, who say youth livestock ownership molds the type of hardworking, dedicated and responsible workers they want to hire.
Tyler Norvell agrees. He is executive director of the Oklahoma Youth Expo, the largest youth event in Oklahoma.
“To me, the Youth Expo and livestock shows in general are an investment in human capital by Oklahomans,” he says. “The purpose of our program is to get kids involved in agriculture and learn about agriculture through hands-on experiences. We hope they stay home and contribute to the future of Oklahoma … to be a part of our growth and our success here.”
At the 2013 Oklahoma Youth Expo, more than 6,500 young Oklahomans, ages 9 to 18, exhibited more than 13,000 head of livestock. The expo presented more than $1.1 million in prize money, awards and scholarships during the 12-day event in March, Norvell says.
Of the money presented, a record-breaking Sale of Champions generated $850,000. Exhibitors earned prize money of $50,000. And the expo awarded $200,000 in scholarships based on academics or livestock performance. Those scholarships must be used at Oklahoma universities and colleges. Historically, about 90 to 95 percent of recipients use them to further their educations in the state of Oklahoma.
In 2012, the Tulsa State Fair awarded $150,866 in premiums and more than $25,000 in awards to Oklahoma youth, Herndon says. In addition, the fair distributed $50,000 in scholarships and more than $500,000 was raised in the Junior Livestock Auction. The youth grand total exceeded $725,000, accounting for about 80 percent of total fair awards related to livestock and horse exhibition.
“We take a lot of pride here in offering these opportunities,” Herndon says.