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New Indiana State Fair livestock schedule defies 'old-timer's logic'

showing sheep at fair
Throwback Thursday: Officials say it is more efficient and fewer kids in Grand Drive will miss school. More efficient for whom? And what about all the other kids?

I will put my disclaimer up front. I now consider myself an old-timer, and I don't like change – at least not until I think through it. Then I either see the logic, or I wonder what logic those who made the change saw in the first place.

Related: Indiana State Fair heifer, steer judges stir crowd with comments

The Indiana State fair released a new Livestock judging schedule for the 2016 fair that's radically different for some species. Check out the Indiana Stare fair Web site or contact the livestock manager, Emily Griffiths. Reach her at: [email protected], or call 317-927-7541.

One major change has barrows coming in the first weekend, and gilts coming in the second week. For as long as I can remember, the barrow and gilt shows have been together.

Here's what the press release says. "Schedule changes are intended to provide more convenient and coordinated arrival and release times for those exhibitors that bring multiple animals to the Indiana State Fair, specifically on market animal weekend, therefore not creating logistical challenges for families. This has also allowed movement of the Grand Drive to the first Sunday to allow families to support exhibitors without an additional missed school day.

"A split swine schedule allows for 4-H members to experience expedited unloading, more rapid check-in and a more appropriate space for their livestock and exhibitors themselves."

Where did the term "market animal weekend" come from? Having the Grand Drive on Sunday evening seems to make sense. Maybe a hundred families are directly affected. Their kids might get to school on Monday, that's true. But what about exhibitors fighting huge crowds? Sunday is a big attendance day. And who will attend the fair now on Monday?

Splitting the swine show, more expedited check-in and more pen space – now that's likely true. Space was limited in one of the oldest barns on the fairgrounds.

Then the release says, "By condensing the schedules in several of the species we hope to improve fairgoer perception of our livestock exhibits by 'filling the barns."

Related: Rural Hoosiers should watch how Indiana State Fair plays out in 2015

Whoa, back the truck up. How big of an issue is "fairgoer perception" compared to doing what's best for 4-H families? Second, how do you create the perception the swine barn is fuller when you take out roughly half the animals? Won't the fairgoer perception be "Gee, pig numbers must be way down?"

You might be wondering why this item is in the Throwback Thursday slot. That's because when the Indiana State Fair first adopted the 17-day schedule, the same argument about splitting the swine show unfolded. Officials met with swine exhibitors the year preceding the change. Many had legitimate questions, like, "So I have to make two trips from Evansville to show my pigs?"

A schedule was even posted of what the new system would look like. I captured that and printed a story. It didn't make logical sense to me to make families come back, and kids miss more school. The proposed schedule was aborted, and the hog show remained unified, until now. Did the story have anything to do with it? Probably not.

What about the hundreds of 4-Hers who want to show both barrows and gilts? Now they're going to miss school in two different weeks, perhaps twice as many days.

Related: Indiana State Fair: 1990 vs. 2015

And then there's the new sheep schedule. The 4-H ewe breeding show will now be Friday, not Saturday. Ewes must be in on Wednesday, not Thursday. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday are school days!

That gets in my wheelhouse because kids who don't have room for sheep keep them here, and show at the State Fair. This past year they didn't miss school on Wednesday or Friday.

So are the new changes logical and more efficient? It seems to me that depends on whose logic you're using, and which efficiencies you're worried about.

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