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Virtual judging would allow counties without physical fairs to select qualifiers for the Indiana State Fair.

Tom J Bechman 1, Editor, Indiana Prairie Farmer

April 21, 2020

2 Min Read
4-H dairy cattle show
MAKE IT HAPPEN: Indiana 4-H leaders are developing the technology to make virtual judging, rather than live judging, possible — even for livestock projects — during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Indiana state 4-H leaders announced in mid-April that 4-H Extension would not be involved with in-person county fairs slated to be held in June due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A decision about 4-H involvement in fairs for July is expected in mid-May.

However, state 4-H program leaders are busy developing an option that counties could use to hold a virtual fair, if they so choose. Because many county fairs are operated through county fair boards, and many fairgrounds are county property, local officials will have input into decisions about how to proceed with fairs that were scheduled for June.

Related: Complete coronavirus coverage


Meanwhile, Tony Carrell, state 4-H youth development program specialist; Courtney Stierwalt, state 4-H animal sciences program specialist; and Cara Harbison, state 4-H online data management coordinator, are putting together a format that would allow 4-H’ers to enter projects online, and would also allow judges to evaluate projects online.

“We have imaginative, creative 4-H youth educators around the state, and we’re confident they could take the format and conduct a virtual fair if a county decides to do so,” Stierwalt says.

Here’s how it might work: 4-H members already make project entries online. Instead of bringing the physical project to the fairgrounds, they would upload a picture or pictures, according to requirements explained by the local youth educator. Local Extension staff would assemble the projects by classes and make them available to judges online. Judges could make comments that would be returned to 4-H’ers.

Through virtual judging, counties that can’t hold a physical fair before the Indiana State Fair could still select entries eligible for the state fair. As of press time, the Indiana State Fair is still slated for Aug. 7-23.

Stierwalt believes this even will work for livestock projects, with 4-H’ers submitting pictures of their animals. “Livestock judges could make written or even oral comments,” Stierwalt says. “County leaders would determine the best way to release results and/or comments for public viewing.”

While virtual livestock shows may seem like a stretch, some have already occurred. Walton Webcasting held a virtual livestock show with 32 pigs on April 18. Called the Pullen Show Pigs Bracket Buster Virtual Livestock Show, selected customers who bought barrows from the Pullen family submitted 90-second videos of a 4-H’er driving his or her pig at home. Nationally recognized judge Mark Hoge, animal science professor at Western Illinois University, Macomb, Ill., judged the entries while seated in the broadcasting studio, providing comments and narrowing the field to a single winner.

Hogue says while the idea didn’t appeal to him at first, he sees value in the process — especially in what young people learn by getting their animals ready and exhibiting them.

On April 25, Walton Webcasting will present Brad Howell Ford’s Lockdown Throwdown Cyber Livestock Show. The company is accepting entries from everywhere. Learn more at

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Covid 19

About the Author(s)

Tom J Bechman 1

Editor, Indiana Prairie Farmer

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