Ag News

GJLF Expo gives Georgia Livestock exhibitors a chance to shine

by Jay Stone

Posted on Dec 14, 2023 at 18:53 PM


The 2023 Georgia Junior Livestock Foundation (GJLF) Expo, Dec. 7-10, drew exhibitors and animals from multiple Southern states, and it served as another opportunity to compete for Georgia livestock show participants.

Close-up might well have been the central theme for the show, which drew approximately 650 exhibitors from six states but was particularly popular with livestock training youth within shouting distance of the Perry facility.

“I was really excited when I heard about it,” said Ella Dowd, a senior at Perry High School and a member of the Georgia National Fairgrounds & Agricenter (GNFA) Livestock Ambassadors Team. “I thought it was great because I get to sleep in my own bed.”

GJLF President Phil Page said livestock exhibitors who cannot travel to other states to participate in the larger shows got their chance at the Expo, which featured nearly 1,400 animals. The show began 12 years ago as the Jackson County Young Farmers Show held at the Gwinnett County Fairgrounds, where youth showed hogs, Page said. The event outgrew the Gwinnett facility and was moved to Athens. In 2018 the show added cattle. The GJLF took over and moved it to the GNFA last year.

The 2023 show, for which Georgia Farm Bureau was a presenting sponsor, marked the first time the event was open to all species – adding goats and sheep.

“The response has been fantastic,” Page said. “There’s a lot of options for kids now for shows. There’s actually a show in our local ag facility [in Jackson County], they’ve got 300 head of hogs there this weekend. There’s a big show in Florida. The Mississippi Youth Expo is going on. There are lots of different options for folks to go to, so for us to have the numbers we’ve got, we’re excited.”

Competitors traveled to Perry from Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, Tennessee and South Carolina, in addition to the ones from around Georgia.

On Dec. 9, 11-year-old Adah Barkley of Lee County, Georgia, who has been showing animals for three years, stepped into the ring for the Market Doe Goat Show.

“It was really good competition,” Adah said. “Being in the ring, it’s exciting, and when I’m out there I’m happy because I’m with the animals and I really love it.”

Page said one of the goals the GJLF board had for the development of the Expo was to make it a marquee event that was easy for exhibitors in Georgia to get to.

“The goal of our whole board is to create a premier livestock event for all species, that’s right here in town, and make this a destination event, for kids to come from other states where they’ve got to travel,” he said. “We’re fortunate to have the fairgrounds. This facility is second to none. We’ve got the facility, we’ve got the kids here that need to be highlighted, and so if we made that premier event here, we’ll draw people from everywhere.”

GNFA Junior Livestock Ambassador James McNeal, who is also from Perry, relished the chance to show his market steer.

“I think it’s a really awesome event,” McNeal said early Saturday morning. “I know that it took a lot of hard work and time and effort, but it looks really good so far and I can’t wait to show.”

Page said the GJLF board hopes the event will grow to the point where Georgia kids will fill out the field of competitors.

Cattle exhibitor Carter Mitchell of Warner Robins is sold.

“We try to go to shows close by,” Mitchell said. “Warner Robins to Perry is 20 minutes.”

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