The kids selling animals at this year’s Nez Perce County livestock sale said it’s been a weird year, but things could be worse.

Although the COVID-19 pandemic put a damper on many traditional fair activities, the community rallied online and in person Saturday night to generously bid on goats, sheep, steers and pigs.

“I think it gives people more opportunities to be involved in the market animal sale,” said Lindsay Hall, the 16-year-old daughter of Craig and Kelli Hall, of Lewiston. “We’re expecting a good outcome tonight. Even though things have been challenging, it’s shown us how willing the community is to step up. We’ve had a lot of people volunteering and making this possible for the kids.”

Mason Smith, 12, said he was grateful to be back at the fairgrounds, even though the 2020 atmosphere was much more subdued. He sold a goat named Virgil, and showed his little sister the ropes of being in the sales ring.

In addition to the scaled-down Nez Perce County Fair, the pandemic has led to many changes for kids, Smith said. “You definitely get used to your family when you’re quarantined. This summer there was more quality time and more getting-on-your-nerves time.”

His sister, Mia, the 10-year-old daughter of Soo-Lee and Tate Smith, said her first experience at the sale was fun, even if the fair lacked its usual flair.

“It’s quiet this year and not as exciting, but I hope everyone will be here next year for the carnival, the big lights and people who sell good things.”

Jackson Armitage, the 9-year-old son of Buck Armitage and Sarah Harrington, said he was tempted to bid for his sheep, Violet. He spent six months taking care of the animal and it was hard to see her go. The one benefit of not having a carnival and other distractions gave him more time to focus on her, he said.

Kellen Rupp, the 10-year-old son of Rodney and Kami Rupp, said he was “sad and anxious” about selling his steer, Bob.

“I like the part about getting money, but I don’t like that he’s going away,” the Lewiston boy said. “One thing I’ve noticed this year is I miss seeing the people who aren’t in 4-H — and the food and the carnival.”

The sales committee and fair board spent many hours figuring out how to conduct the Saturday night event without putting anyone in danger. Offering people a chance to bid online seemed to be working out well, organizers said, and the animals were fetching good prices.

“The fair board and community have done a really good job of keeping kids involved during these crazy times,” said bidder Ryan Rogers of Clarkston. “I know they’ve had to work twice as hard to make sure everything is done safely.”

Sophia Sanchirico, the 13-year-old daughter of Paul and Liz Sanchirico, said she’s happy Idaho’s regulations allowed the event to happen.

“I think everyone here is so grateful to have the 4-H aspect of the fair this year,” Sanchirico said. “A lot of places were not able to do this.”

Buyers and family members attended the auction, along with the kids and their animals. Two food booths were open, but little else was going on.

“There’s definitely not the same social aspect,” Lindsay Hall said. “This is very geared toward the sale, Everyone here is a 4-H member or supporter.”

Elise Aiken, the 14-year-old daughter of Ryan and Michelle Aiken, of Lewiston, said the fairgrounds felt like a ghost town, compared to past years.

Her sister, Jordis, 14, said in some ways it was less stressful. Without the crowds, it was easier to get the daily chores done quickly. She sold a pig named “Whiskey” at the auction.

“I do miss the interaction with people asking about my animal,” she said. “I’m not sad about selling him at all because he’s the reason I got hurt. Yesterday during showing, he hit my leg, and I dislocated my knee.”

PJ Ausman, the 16-year-old daughter of Paul and Amy Ausman, of Clarkston, said she noticed a much different vibe this year. Every day felt like a Sunday morning at the fair.

“After you’re done showing, you’re just done,” she said.

Bidder Joe Hall, of Lewiston, said he attended the market sale because it’s a tradition, and it helps kids in the community. “We’re just doing our part,” he said.

Tori Stang, the 13-year-old daughter of Mindy Marsh and Rick Stang, of Culdesac, sold a steer at the event. “It’s pretty weird this year,” she said. “I hope it’s not like this next year.”

Her friend, Hali Anderson, 13, said she had mixed emotions and was sad to say goodbye to her lamb, “Ace.”

“I love him,” said the daughter of Will and Lisa Anderson, of Culdesac. “I spent a lot of time with him. On the other hand, I’m so glad we actually have 4-H and a sale. But it’s definitely different this year.”

Amelia Ponozzo, the 17-year-old daughter of Dominick and Kathy Ponozzo, said COVID-19 made a huge difference in the Nez Perce County Fair.

“The nice part is we don’t have to worry about the public stressing out our animals, but having the public here supporting our projects is super nice. I think we’ve done the best we can with what we’ve been given.”

Sandaine may be contacted at kerris@lmtribune.com or (208) 848-2264. Follow her on Twitter @newsfromkerri.

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