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February 5th, 2009
Livestock expo keeps rural heritage alive

Surrounded by development, a boy and his animal on stage last weekend at the Hays County Livestock Exposition. Photo by Christina Zambrano.

News Reporter

Can Hays County really hang onto its rural heritage while residential and commercial sprawl encroach on its boundaries?

Organizers of the Hays County Livestock Exposition still haven’t given up the hope still clung to by many of the county’s longer tenured residents. While the county has more than doubled its population to about 140,000 since 1990, while growth especially hits the areas of Kyle and Dripping Springs, last weekend’s exposition showed that agriculture still holds a place in a county that becomes more commercialized every day.

“The livestock industry is vital to Texas, as well as San Marcos and its surrounding communities,” said Ty Chumbley, the livestock judging team coach at Texas State. “I realize that San Marcos is getting more and more urbanized, but this area will always be a mecca for agriculture due to its central location, as well as strong agriculture roots.”

Chumbley has been involved in livestock judging since he was a child, and his father is an agriculture teacher at Sandra Day O’Connor High School in San Antonio. After graduating from Texas A&M, Chumbley became the first livestock judging coach for Texas State.

A strong advocate for the importance of agriculture in Hays County, Chumbley said the mix of urban and rural ways of life is one of the many positive aspects this area has to offer its citizens.

“I really enjoy the opportunity to work with business men and women in the community during the week on campus at Texas State, then on the weekend see them in cowboy boots out at the fairgrounds feeding livestock and supporting the youth of Hays County at the livestock sale,” Chumbley said. “Hays County has the perfect mix and we should all be extremely happy for the opportunities we have here.”

This annual Hays County Livestock Exposition, held last weekend at the Hays County Civic Center, showcases local 4-H and Future Farmers of America organization projects.

The central project is the showing and selling of livestock in the main arena. Other projects include roping contests, arts and crafts and cooking. In addition, local jewelers set up booths and some 4-H members display and sell pieces of furniture they have built. The age of the participants ranges from 9-18.

“The show is very important to this community because it brings families together and teaches kids how to be responsible by taking care of an animal,” said Mike Huckaby, a member of the exposition’s board of directors.

The youth who participated in last weekend’s event seemed to have a lot fun as they showed off their hard work, even when they didn’t win first place.

“We had a young girl out here and it was her first time showing, and she won fifth place,” Huckaby said.  “But from the happiness on her face, you would think she had won grand champion.”

Along with having fun at the expo, the participants also can receive college scholarships. The Anton Scholarship and the Sonny Hawkins Scholarship are awarded to high school seniors who are active with either 4-H or FFA. Both organizations promote education through agriculture, life skills, and citizenship.

Huckaby said the exposition stays fairly popular each year, but the recent boom of urban developments in Kyle, Buda and San Marcos have taken a toll on what was once a highly anticipated staple event of the area.

“The county is losing farms and ranches because they are selling out to other businesses, so now the show is becoming even more important so that the opportunities remain for these kids to learn from raising animals,” Huckaby said.

So, the show goes on, exhibiting the county’s rural traditions and keeping them alive for those who don’t want to lose the Hays County they’ve known for decades.

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3 thoughts on “Livestock expo keeps rural heritage alive

  1. I’m sure that your little shin-dig was quite the rage at one time… And no offense on “tradition” but the idea of supporting animal agriculture is waning because more and more people are beginning to realize the harm done through these practices. I’m specifically refering to the livestock sector of your fair. While it’s sweet that these kids are caring for animals – it’s so very sad (and cruel) that these bonds must be severed in the name of “profit”. I don’t know that teaches children anything, except that sentient life can be exchanged for dollars. Is that really what we want to say represents “Americana” in the 21st century? I have heard and read of many stories where kids are heartbroken come time to give their “pets” up, either to other farmers for breeding/milking purposes or to the slaughterhouse. All this is so unnecessary as we are also learning that man lives fine on a crueltyfree – plant based diet. This is the way the future will go… I know that animal ag through it’s youth will try desperately in vain to hold on to these old ways… but in time we will evolve to a more sustainable future, letting the animals go… for they have done enough.

    Thanks for inviting comment.

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  3. The Hays County Livestock Auction in not a TERMINAL one. All livestock stayed with their owner, whether they were “sold” at auction or not.

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