Oklahoma Youth Expo continues with thousands of entrants as officials monitor coronavirus concerns

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) - While countless sporting events and concerts have been canceled or postponed due to coronavirus concerns, thousands of Oklahoma kids and their families are gathered at the Oklahoma State Fairgrounds for an event they say they cannot afford to miss.

More than 7,000 exhibitors and their families travel from all over the state every year with their livestock for the Oklahoma Youth Expo.

Some KFOR viewers were concerned about this large of a group of people gathering at this time. One family said they're skipping this tradition altogether, even though they are losing thousands of dollars.

For other families, they say the show must go on.

About 22,000 animals will be taking part in this contest.

Sixth-grader Jase Sparks is one of about 7,000 kids taking part in the Oklahoma Youth Expo. The hard work he's put in to get there starts before the sun rises.

"We feed and we drench and we fill up water buckets," he said. "Get them out, put them on the collar, treadmill them. Some of them can be very stubborn."

The 10-day expo runs through next week at State Fair Park, the same location where state championship high school basketball games were taking place before they were postponed due to concerns over COVID-19.

"We have been in constant communication with the department of health about our event," said OYE President Tyler Norvell, saying participants' health is the top concern. "They continue to tell us it is safe and healthy to continue our event."

Jase's father, Shawn, teaches agriculture. He says 30 of his students made the 2 1/2 hour trip from eastern Oklahoma with livestock they've worked with every day for nearly a year.

"It takes an emotional strain, a financial strain and some of those kids are seniors," Shawn said. "They spent tons of money, they spent tons of hours in the barn."

All of them are taking health precautions but hope they'll get to finish the expo and not see a financial loss or miss out on scholarship opportunities that come with competing.

"You just live for it," Jase said. "You put so much time in it and spend so much money that you just can't quit. Please don't shut down OYE."

OYE officials are urging those who are ill or at risk to stay home. They say their live streaming numbers are higher than ever this year, which they believe means that's happening.

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