Businesses step up to help 4-H and FFA members

OKEECHOBEE — It was a roller coaster week for Okeechobee County 4-H and Future Farmers of America (FFA) members who spent much of the past year raising animals for the annual Okeechobee Youth Livestock Show (OYLS) and sale at the county fair.

On Monday, March 16 — after the swine had been checked in at the fairgrounds — with the governor’s office calling for the cancellation of events that would attract large gatherings, the OYLS committee made the tough decision to cancel the show.

The county fair committee also canceled the fair, which was supposed to open Tuesday. The decision was inevitable; on Wednesday, the State of Florida shut down all youth livestock events statewide.

It was heartbreaking news for the 4-H and FFA youth who spent much of the past year raising an animal for the annual show and sale. The small animals like chickens and rabbits had already been judged before the cancellation, but the rest of the show was canceled. Still, the Okeechobee community came together to make sure they had a successful livestock sale.

OYLS contracted with the Cattle in Motion website to broker the sale, which started at noon Friday and was scheduled to run through noon Saturday.

There were a lot of nervous youngsters watching the online bids. As evidenced by comments on social media, some animals received no bids or only very low bids on Friday, causing stress levels to rise. The kids count on the sale of the animals to recoup the cost of the projects, and if they make a profit, many either use it for the next year’s project or put it into a college savings fund.

Then local businesses and community members stepped up, started bidding and kept bidding. The Cattle In Motion website has a feature that adds minutes to the clock as bids come in, so that the sale doesn’t end until 5 minutes after the last bid is made, even if the sale’s posted end time has passed. Because so many people kept bidding, the sale went on an extra three hours.

Around 3:30 p.m. Saturday, the Livestock Committee posted an exciting development: “ALL IN. ALL DONE. OUR ONLINE SALE HAS CLOSED! IT WAS INCREDIBLY SUCCESSFUL! WE HAVE AN EXCITING ANNOUNCEMENT! A group of businesses has pooled a pot of money together to donate to our exhibitors on the low end of the sale.

“All steers under purchased under $3,500 will receive an add on that will bring their exhibit purchase to $3,500.

“All hogs, lambs, goats, and the rabbit purchased under $1,000 will receive an add on that will bring their purchase to $1,000.

“This does not include all other add ons! This is simply toward our sale projects!

“We cannot begin to thank the businesses of Okeechobee, our surrounding counties, our state and surrounding states enough! You moved in, stepped up and supported our exhibitors in ways that surpassed our dreams and desires! Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU!”

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