COVINGTON — The Great Flood of 2016 washed away many events for Livingston Parish, but business carried on as usual for the annual 4-H/Future Farmers of America Livestock Show.
A different location was the lone exception.
Use of the Livingston Parish Fairgrounds for storage of damaged autos in the wake of the flood made the event’s longtime home unavailable, but St. Tammany Parish stepped forward.
The event took place Feb. 1 as a one-day event at a multi-area livestock facility at the St. Tammany Parish Fairground.
“Everyone stepped up,” Livingston Parish 4-H agent Jessie Hoover said. “We had a lot of volunteers come up to help us do this in the middle of the week (as opposed to Friday and Saturday) and they made it happen.”
It wasn’t only the coordinators who were relieved to get the show rolling after the flood disaster.
An outright cancellation would have washed away all the work 4-H members invested in their livestock.
“I’m just thankful we can do it this year,” said Pine Grove resident Luke Seguin, a junior at Walker High School. “I was nervous ever since the flood that this would be canceled, and that would’ve been a big disappointment to so many of us who work very hard for this.”
The event has been a longtime tradition for many of the families.
Heather Boley represents six generations who have competed in the event.
She could not imagine a year without the livestock show.
It’s as much about family values as competition, Boley said.
“It’s a gathering of our whole family, including aunts, uncles and cousins,” she said. “We’re just happy we didn’t have any animals drown.”
Some contestants lost livestock – chickens, in most cases – during the flood, but Walker junior Samantha Jones was spared the losses.
“To lose your livestock after a whole year of preparation would be like getting injured two weeks before the Super Bowl,” she said.
Others went to great length to preserve their investment, said volunteer Becky Morgan.
“We had some people who swam their cattle out of the flood,” she said. “This is a big business to some people.”
The time with cattle teaches youngsters about livestock, business and economics.
“They can tell you how much feed you need, market values and portion controls,” Morgan said.
The process itself instills many important values, said Toni Tubb, whose daughter Kaitlin was a mainstay until her 2012 graduation from Walker High School.
“The kids in these shows learn about responsibility, how to conduct themselves in interviews and how to look at people in the eye,” Tubb said. “Most importantly, this teaches them how to win and lose gracefully.”
It also served as an “ice-breaker” for Tubb’s daughter.
“She was so shy and nervous, but by the time she was a senior, she won state showmanship,” Tubb said.
For Live Oak High sophomore Megan Spence, the competition has also taught her the virtue of patience.
She said her cow gave her no choice in the matter.
“You have to stay calm,” Spence said. “If you don’t, the cow won’t, either.”
Tubb still attends the show each year, even after she stepped down as treasurer for the event.
“I want to be here for the future kids,” she said. “Besides, the people in this competition are like family, and you just don’t find many family-oriented competitive events.”
The family ties sometimes bring grief, as was the case this year.
Contestants and event personnel wore shirts which read “In Memory of Megan” as a tribute to Megan Threeton, a longtime 4-H participant who died in a car crash last fall in Springfield.
“I’ve watched kids grow up out here, and Megan was like one of my own,” said Tubb, as she held back tears. “We really miss her.”
Note: See more photos from this event here: http://www.livingstonparishnews.com/living/photo-gallery-livingston-parish--h-ffa-livestock-show/collection_cfbfcd54-e986-11e6-92da-ef501cf98c76.html
John Dupont is a reporter for The Livingston Parish News.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can also follow him on Twitter @dupont_john.