Students from each corner of the state will converge in Oklahoma City for the 97th annual Oklahoma Youth Expo, which kicks off Friday and runs through March 19 at State Fair Park.
With livestock and families in tow, 7,000 youth aged 9 to 18 are expected to compete this year for scholarships and cash prizes in eight livestock divisions, culminating in the Sale of Champions at 4 p.m. March 19 at State Fair Arena.
Tyler Norvell, executive director of the Oklahoma Youth Expo, said the entire event is open to the public, but several events are specifically geared to observers. Among them are an agriculture trade show, which runs throughout the event, and a Legislative Show featuring state lawmakers working livestock with constituents from their districts.
The Legislative Show is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. March 14 at the Super Barn Arena, but the entire expo is worth checking out even for folks who don't have children participating in the event, Norvell said.
“It's pretty amazing to see a 9-year-old girl lead a 1,300-pound steer in the ring,” he said.
The expo is the state championship for Oklahoma's agriculture families, Norvell said, and is a tradition that runs deep in both rural and urban communities across the state.
Participants learn how to show an animal, he said, but also how to be a leader, manage finances and resources, and take responsibility for a project and presentation.
In addition to showing livestock, participants will compete in academic, leadership and speech contests, he said.
“These skills you can learn sitting in the classroom but you don't get hands-on experience, and this is hands-on experience,” Norvell said. “Agriculture still is a huge part of this economy … and this is something they're very passionate about.”
More than $100,000 in scholarships will be awarded to winners of the breed shows, as well as to about 50 high school senior participants, he said. Another $750,000 will be awarded to the owners of more than 200 animals sold at the market show.
A full schedule of events and locations for the Oklahoma Youth Expo is posted at www.