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story.lead_photo.caption Trenton Bernskoetter hugs his grandparents, Sen. Mike Bernskoetter and Jeannette Bernskoetter, after they won the auction for Trenton's market goat Wednesday at the Cole County Fair at Jefferson City Jaycees Fairgrounds. Photo by Liv Paggiarino / News Tribune.

The COVID-19 pandemic forced the Jefferson City Jaycees to modify many of its activities during the annual Cole County Fair.

Among the changes was combining the sale of students' cured hams and bacon slabs with the sale of their livestock in a single auction.

Social distancing prevented the annual ham and bacon breakfast from being held at its traditional location — the offices of Missouri Farm Bureau.

While the livestock auctions are usually held earlier in the week than the breakfast, it just made sense to combine them this year, said Cindy Hassler, treasurer for the Cole County 4-H/Future Farmers of America Fair Board.

"We knew that a lot of the (ham and bacon) buyers also buy livestock too, so we thought we'll just combine them," Hassler said.

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Another change this year is that the buyers don't get to take the animals, she continued. That came about because local meat processors are booked up for the next year, she explained.

However, some of the students and their families have arranged for processing, Hassler said. And, some of the buyers are likely to process the animals themselves, too, she said.

Award winners were among the early exhibitors offering their livestock and cured meats.

Maddie Twehus said she's been curing hams for about six years. Her work earned the Grand Champion award. It sold for $650.

Maggie Lehmen's Grand Champion rabbit sold for $250.

State Rep. Rudy Veit, R-Wardsville, bought Aiden Moeller's Grand Champion chicken.

Viet, also bought several other animals and cured projects.

He said supporting the students has been something he's done since the early '80s.

Callie Smith's Reserve Champion chicken sold for $950.

State Sen. Mike Bernskoetter also bought a number of animals — including a Reserve Champion goat raised by Trenton Bernskoetter — and cured meats. He bought the Reserve Champion bacon, which Emma Gardner cured.

John and Loretta Schulte, of Schulte's Fresh Foods, also supported the youths by purchasing numerous products.

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The youths exhibited 161 products Wednesday night, Hassler said. The total was down, but there had been a lot of uncertainty about whether there would be an auction this year, she said.

Marshal Schroeder, an exhibitor and volunteer at the fair, said he raised a steer for the first time this year. At 13, he had already raised and exhibited pigs for four years, so he decided to try something new this year.

As an exhibitor, the students have to work with the animals daily to make them comfortable with being handled, prodded and poked. But a couple of months ago, when the auction was in doubt, he stopped handling the steer.

After learning the fair was going to happen — one way or another — he re-committed to his project.

"It was very enjoyable," Schroeder said.

The auction attracted a couple hundred people to the livestock barn where they placed their bids and supported their kin.

Shawn Erhardt's 15-year-old daughter, Georgia, raised a steer this year, he said. It's the kind of thing he did when he was young, Erhardt said.

"It's the first year she's ever raised and sold a steer," Erhardt said. "She's nervous and excited."

Gallery: PHOTO GALLERY: Jefferson City Jaycees Cole County Fair
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