XENIA — No squawking. No clucking. No feathers. No cages. No feed. No birds – well, at least no live ones anyway. The poultry hall at the Greene County Fair is a little different this year, as it lacks most of the life characteristic of a normal fair year, all as a result of a statewide ban on all live bird exhibitions announced by the Ohio Department of Agriculture in early June.
Each of those typical features has been replaced by posters, which hang in neat rows in the hall where the birds typically would sit for the week of the fair. Poultry shows are a little different this year as a result.
The ban comes as a result of the spread of avian flu throughout other big poultry-producing states states such as Iowa and Minnesota, which has forced poultry producers in those states to kill large numbers of their flocks in order to prevent the further spread of the disease. According to United States Department of Agriculture data, more than 44 million birds have been affected by the disease nationwide. No cases of the bird flu have been reported in Ohio, and the ban was made as a preventative measure.
“It is kind of sad that we can’t actually show our birds and show the judge, ‘This is what I’ve been working on all year, this is my market product, this is what I worked for,’” junior fair board member Allison Rapp said while reflecting on the changes brought about by the ban.
A silver lining
As contest judge Tim Bowles walks among turkey show entrants Monday morning, he chats with each competitor by their poster for a few minutes before moving on to the next entry. Each poster contains information about the project bird, as well as a picture of the competitor with their entry. That poster along with the interview helps to make up each competitor’s score.
It’s not the same, but it’s about as good as can be under the circumstances. Some are even saying that the change has helped kids to learn more throughout the project process.
“They’ve had to put a little bit more background information into it than what they’ve had [to in the past],” Bowles said. “Always before they’ve been busy with their projects, washing and feeding, daily maintenance and things like that. Maybe they’re spending a little bit more time doing the research part of it.”
Rapp concurred with the sentiment.
“I think it’s better in a way because it’s a learning experience,” she said. “I talked to some of the kids who showed yesterday and they have learned more doing this project … because they had to research it, they had to do a poster, and they had to actually say, ‘Hey this is what my project is. I never knew that. I just poured feed into a feeder and gave them some.’
“It’s a much better learning experience,” she said.
So while this way of “showing” birds isn’t ideal, perhaps there are some silver linings to it after all.