BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — An exciting moment for the young owner of a heifer on Thursday: a calf birth at the Kern County Fair.

“I’m feeling good,” said Josh Chernabaeff, Frontier FFA. My heifer just calved, and it’s a nice looking calf. I’m happy with it.”

As Josh’s classmates debate “Grandpappy” or “Peepaw” as his new nickname, his advisors think of fairs past.

Years ago, it wasn’t uncommon to have 30 calvings at the fair. This year, there have been five.

“Coming back from COVID, it’s been difficult to get motivation back,” said Clay Freeman, KHSD agriculture coordinator.

Participation in Future Farmers of America programs in Kern is up from last year, but still significantly lower than before the pandemic.

“That transition coming out of the pandemic was really difficult,” Freeman said. “Having one year without a fair at all, other than just a virtual show, and then a transition year where it was kind of a reduced version of the Kern County Fair.”

Raising an animal for fair takes months of hard work and dedication. Some advisors believe kids are less willing to put the effort in after the pandemic. But those who’ve gone through the program point to the work as a highlight.

“It teaches you a lot, and it’s just a lot of fun when you finally get to show everyone the work that you’ve done,” said Lucas Espericueta, Kern County Fair board member.

And there’s no bigger stage in Kern County than the Kern County Fair.