XENIA — When attendees at this year’s Greene County Fair walk into the poultry barn, they won’t hear the squabble of chickens, turkeys and other birds typical of a normal year at the fair.
This year isn’t a normal year.
Yes, thanks to a statewide ban on all live bird exhibitions announced by the Ohio Department of Agriculture in early June, the poultry hall will be much quieter than normal come fair time.
The move was made in a preventative effort to stop the spread of the avian flu from states like Iowa and Minnesota, where the disease has hit hardest in recent months, forcing poultry owners to slaughter thousands of birds in hopes of quelling the disease. No cases of the disease have been reported in Ohio, and the ban was designed to maintain that status.
So this year at the Greene County Fair, poultry cages will be replaced by posters and books, in an effort to still allow those who have raised birds to “show” their efforts. While the birds won’t physically be at the fairgrounds, representations of those animals will be. Exhibitors will show posters with a picture of themselves with their bird, as well as a written statement about their project and will be interviewed by a judge as a portion of their final scores.
“This year you’re going to have to have knowledge behind it, not just bringing in the best bird,” Mark Everman, director of the poultry barn for the Greene County Agricultural Society, said when the alternative was announced. “It’s more of what you know about poultry as a whole.”
Posters (40 percent), skill-a-thons (30 percent) and book checks (30 percent) will make up scores that will determine champion exhibitor. During each of the normal scheduled bird show times at the fair, judges will walk around and peruse each of the posters and will interview each of the exhibitors. Project sales will continue at the scheduled times, but with the exhibitor’s poster taking the place the bird normally would in the ring.
It’s all a little bit different than normal, but it’s an effort to keep the bird shows running in some capacity.
The bird ban includes county and independent fairs, the Ohio State Fair and all other gatherings of birds for show or for sale, including auctions and swap meets.
According to United States Department of Agriculture data, more than 44 million birds have been affected by the disease nationwide.
According to the ODA, Ohio is the second largest egg producer in the country and home to 28 million laying chickens, 12 million broilers, 8.5 million pullets and 2 million turkeys. Ohio’s egg, chicken and turkey farms are responsible for more than 14,600 jobs and contribute $2.3 billion to the state’s economy.
Ohio’s cancellation of bird shows followed other states which have made similar moves for the 2015 fair season, including Indiana, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Michigan.