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Livestock shows are a big part of the Effingham County Fair
Allison Smith with Grand Champion Steer
Allison Smith shows her Grand Champion Steer at the 2022 Effingham County Fair Livestock Show. (File photo.)

Special to the Herald


SPRINGFIELD – The Effingham County Fair has remained true to its agricultural roots for nearly eight decades. Gerald Kessler is appreciative of that fact.

“So many young people today think their pork chops or ribeyes come from Kroger,” said Kessler, chairman of the annual Effingham County Fair Livestock Committee. 

The Effingham County Fair’s 79th edition is set for Oct. 12-21. The Livestock Show, featuring cattle, goats, lambs, swine, and rabbits raised by 4-H and FFA members, is slated Oct. 17-19.

“FFA and 4-H teach that these animals are where their steaks and pork chips come from,” Kessler said. “They are judged on the quality of meat. It’s educational.”

Kessler has been the fair’s Livestock Committee chairman for almost six years. He moved into the role after his children ended their show careers.

“I would take the week off and help the kids get their animals ready,” Kessler said. “Mr. Carroll Zittrouer was the livestock chairman at the time and I would hang around, sit with him, and help him with the daily routine of being up here during the fair. I think he did it for 18 years.

“I’ve had the honor and privilege of taking this over, and trying to fill his shoes. They are big shoes to fill.”

The only compensation for Kessler’s job is seeing Livestock Show participants succeed in the ring after they gain months of valuable experience.

“We’ve watched quite a few students who were very young showing in elementary school,” he said. “Now some of them are getting ready to graduate and that feels good. They learn a lot – responsibility, taking care of another living thing, and working with it.

“You can tell the ones who put that extra effort in.”

Kessler said children who participate in livestock shows are generally excellent students who are on a path to becoming “a role model in the community.”

“It helps them keep out of trouble,” he said. “If they are spending time with their animals, they don’t have time for mischief.”

Kessler’s wife, Amanda, a Livestock Committee member, said show participants are a close-knit group.

“They gravitate together,” she said. “You know they are hanging out with a good group of kids. I know that from my experience and it means a lot to me.”

Livestock showing is tradition for the Kesslers. Their son, Gerald, and daughter, Ashton, loved it. They expect that their granddaughter will follow them into the ring.

“That was our family vacation – going to livestock shows,” Mr. Kessler said. “We didn’t go to Disney World, the beach or stuff like that.”

Mrs. Kessler shared a funny anecdote from her family’s livestock show history.

“One year my daughter wanted to show a pig with floppy ears,” she recalled. “That’s all she cared about. We told her it wasn’t going to do well (at the show) but we got it anyway.

“As expected, it didn’t do well and that one time is all it took. Then she understood (the qualities that judges want to see in a pig).”

Mr. Kessler believes that winning a ribbon at the local livestock show is hard to beat.

“A few people might recognize you at the Georgia State Fair but here you’ve got all your classmates from school, your family, friends, and neighbors who know who you are,” he said. “They’ve watched you grow up and that just means more to me.”

The Kesslers expect to continue helping children at the fair for years to come. They hope to add a Chicken Show to the 2024 lineup.

“People did it for our kids along the way,” Mrs. Kessler said. “It’s a joy to give back.”

Learn more about the fair and the Livestock Show at