The Okmulgee County Free Fair Board is set to meet Monday at 7 p.m. at the OSU Extension Center for their regular meeting.
One item on the agenda will be a presentation by Commissioner Erik Zoellner and county resident Lowell Hobbs, that involves a rule by the Okmulgee County Spring Livestock Show, that has caused some concern for residents and families.
The OCSLS committee, which is under the Fair Board, has a rule that states the Spring Livestock is open to “any Okmulgee County 4-H or FFA members currently enrolled in their organization and attending a school located within Okmulgee County or homeschooled in Okmulgee County.”
The matter was brought forth recently during the public portion of the Okmulgee County Commissioners meeting.
Hobbs, the owner of Barefoot Ranch, spoke to commissioners about requesting an exemption to the rule. Hobbs emphasized at that meeting that “there was nothing done wrong” on the part of the board, but said the rule needs to be adjusted.
Hobbs explained that there was a young man with special needs who was not allowed to participate in the Okmulgee County Spring Livestock Show this year due to a rule change that said participants must live and go to school in the county.
Due to information provided to the family, the young man attends school in an adjoining county better suited to assist and help with his particular needs. The family still lives in Okmulgee County, but the OCSLS rule prevents him from participating in the Spring Show, though he could compete in the Okmulgee County Free Fair held in September.
“There’s others that I’ve learned about through this process that also are eliminated from showing, because of their situation,” Hobbs said at the commissioner’s meeting. “For me, I grew up in a lot of agriculture – FFA and 4H…” Hobbs asked that the commissioners review the rule with the fair board and the Spring livestock show committee, “so everybody’s in agreement.”
Commissioner Erik Zoellner offered his support for Hobbs’s effort and invited him to the next fair board meeting in order to address these concerns.
In looking at other surrounding counties, most require that 4-H or FFA members be of good standing in their chapters, and/or be enrolled in a school in that particular county and a resident.
Another father of a family in southern Okmulgee County shared their story with the newspaper about the rule and its effect.
With three boys involved in 4-H or FFA, it keeps the family busy.
Residing just outside the Henryetta area, but in Okmulgee County, two of the children attend Ryal School in Okfuskee County, while the eldest, who did attend there, is now enrolled at Henryetta and is a member of the FFA program.
All three were eligible to show in the Okmulgee County Free Fair, however, only the eldest would be able to compete in the Spring Livestock Show, according to the rule currently in place.
The father, who works out of state, tries to be in attendance at events as much as possible at the local events, though the difficulty lies in how the younger children feel when they are unable to show with their older brother.
“They want to show with their older brother which, you know, we’re not going to keep them from showing because we’re still going,” the father said. “But it’s just easier on the family when the boys are in the same show.”
He added that “It’s quite a bit of hustling around to get all that stuff done” especially when there are events days apart.
The family found out recently that the younger ones, though living in Okmulgee County, were not able to participate in the Spring Show since they are not enrolled in a county school.
He would like to see all of them be able to be together when showing their animals, especially since the younger ones appreciate their older brother there supporting them, and vice versa.
“We just want to do it for the kids, and they really enjoy doing it, and that’s why we do it (compete),” the father said.
As far as when the rule went into effect is unknown, but has been used for numerous years.
Another person that has been involved with the county youth programs stated it may have been as far back as the 90s, but was not certain.
His hope is though, with a rule change, more youth would be encouraged to participate and grow the county programs, both FFA and 4-H.