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A youngster guides her calf through the arena at the 2019 Wharton County Youth Fair for the Bucket Calf Show. The 2021 calf event was cancelled due to COVID-19 safety concerns.

The Wharton County Youth Fair’s annual bucket calf show was canceled last week in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, but fair leaders say the other livestock events will likely continue, possibly in a modified fashion to ensure attendees’ safety.

The bucket calf show is a livestock contest open to kids ages five through eight where they are judged on the appearance of their one- to three-month-old calf and how well the contestant handles the animal in the arena.

The fair has several committees and chairs governing the livestock events they host, with each meeting periodically. The bucket calf board met on Tuesday, Jan. 19 and discussed whether the show, planned for April 22, would be safe to hold in light of the ongoing pandemic.

“Here’s our main concern: these are our youngest exhibitors,” WCYF President Ed Weinheimer III said. “A few of our board members are teachers, and they have issues with kids actually social distancing for more than five minutes at a time. We felt like that might be a safety concern with our kids.”

The last time the bucket calf show was held, 77 children participated, with as many, if not more, adults there to supervise and support the young contestants.

Another big factor in canceling the show this early on is that bucket calves are not market animals, like other livestock being shown, and can’t be sold.

“Did we want to let these kids get a project, start raising it and then make that decision (to cancel the show) on them in March?” Weinheimer said. “That was our main concern on letting that go out until March.”

A handful of locals voiced their opinions on the show’s cancellation on the WCYF’s social media announcement. Samantha Sebesta of Needville was looking forward to entering her son in the bucket calf contest.

“I know the fair was doing what they thought was best but, our son was so looking forward to finally getting to show his calf,” Sebesta said. “Just a big let down for these kiddos, who need something to brighten their lives.”

WCYF plans to run April 15 to 24. The other shows and competitions planned for these dates include ag mechanics, heifers, swine, birds and more.

As of right now, Weinheimer expects the other WCYF livestock shows will continue.

I “don’t see a problem on the market animals, for our older kids,” he said. “That’s our goal, to have them show and have a sale.”

In early 2020, WCYF officials canceled the fair due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, now that the pandemic has continued for almost one year, the WCYF committees have created alternate plans for how to hold the events safely without completely canceling them, Weinheimer said.

For the next few weeks, WCYF officials will be keeping an eye on the COVID-19 cases while communicating with the Wharton County Office of Emergency Management.

“We’re going to need to make serious decisions,” Weinheimer said. “Our senior Citizens Day: Is it safe for the senior citizens to come out to the fairgrounds and have a positive experience? Our Special Friends Day with the preschools: that’s (coming up).”

The fair board plans to meet on March 9 to further discuss this year’s fair and COVID-19 safety.

“We’re doing what we need to do to not put the public at risk at any time, whether we’re having our fair or any function out there,” Weinheimer said.

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