At 5 a.m., it’s hard for Lindsey McCurry to think about a world where a virus has made life different for everyone.
She’s at piece before the shadows shift , the songbird sings, and before the sun comes up because she is doing something she’s done since she was 8 years old.
The 18-year-old incoming senior at Pueblo County High School -- like most 4-H kids -- worked hard to get her animal ready for the beloved Pueblo County Fair. In this case she walked and fed her pigs and goats.
After that, she gave them baths and tended to them again later in the day. The day concluded with another walk and feeding.
That part was normal for her.
But in the era of the coronavirus, even the annual fair would be changed drastically.
"It’s just weird," she said standing in front of a barn where "Birdie" the pig and other farm animals were scrambling through dust and straw for a comfortable spot to lay.
"The whole thing is weird. It’s made things a lot different."
This year’s county fair that wrapped up this week was virtual, meaning competitors such as McCurry had to show their animals on videos that were later sent to judges.
"The work was still hard. We were about three weeks away from getting pigs when the massive virus hit," McCurry recalled.
"I asked my dad if we were really going to get pigs because I thought we might not get to show. I had some friends who went to the Houston Livestock Show in Texas and they were two hours away before the pig show was canceled."
Her dad assured her that they were going to get pigs.
"My dad said, ’You’re crazy, we are going to get pigs. No matter what we are getting animals because you have to have something to do.’ My dad was right," McCurry said.
"Thankfully, we were able to have the virtual show, but it was nothing like having an in-person show."
She said missing a week of getting to do activities with friends was difficult.
"You usually have the chance to visit with people that you normally don’t get to see. That was very different for me," McCurry said.
"My dad and I weren’t as stressed because we didn’t have to take the pigs to the fairgrounds, but I just think not having the whole experience of the county fair week was sad. It wasn’t very fun without it."
McCurry called the process for competition was chaotic.
"They gave us a difficult pattern. We had to walk in a triangle 15 by 15 feet. Fifteen feet is not very much for a pig to get very many strides in. It was really hard to perform," she said with a laugh.
A family friend filmed the showing.
"We took him (Birdie) out on our grass and we filmed it back there," she said pointing to a patch of grass at her family’s home.
Two weeks before the video was taken, McCurry said she laid out cones in the required pattern and practiced as much as she could.
"I think I’ve just been really feeling sad about it. Nothing feels normal. It just feels like each day folds into the next day. I am glad we were able to have something, but it was really sad that it wasn’t in person," she said.
"The whole feel is just different. We even had to write bios instead of doing it in-person at the auction."
But the work paid off as Birdie was crowned Grand Champion Pig at the Pueblo County Fair. The pig was sold for $5,500 Friday to T&T Electric, a longtime supporter of the county fair.
The animals this year were sold during an online auction that ended Friday.
The pandemic has taken a toll on McCurry, but she looks to a brighter future.
"I think it’s really affected all of our lives, but kind of not for the best, but for the worst. It’s literally flipped all our lives up-side-down," she said.
"Most kids who live and breathe sports don’t get to play sports. It’s like we just don’t know what to do with ourselves. I think it’s allowed us to slow down and really take things into the bigger picture and really think about how things can effect us."
She said the pandemic has helped her evaluate life.
"I never thought I would live through something like this. I mean, we learn about world war and different flu viruses that have passed through history. I never thought I would be living through a pandemic like this," she said.
"I worked very hard this year and I had more time. I am very appreciative."
She said she is exited because as of now, the competitions at the Colorado State Fair are still scheduled.
"That will be great. Even though the State Fair is modified, kids like me really need it," McCurry said.
She will be exhibiting four pigs and two goats at the State Fair.
During those early mornings, McCurry often would look up into the sky and wonder what was going on in the world.
"I would think about what other kids were going through. Were they experiencing the same thing that I was. I think they were."
Chieftain reporter Anthony A. Mestas can be reached by email at email@example.com or at twitter.com/mestas3517. Help support local journalism with a subscription to the Chieftain at chieftain.com/subscribenow.
Birdie the pig is the Pueblo County Fair’s first pig to win in a virtual contest this year. [CHIEFTAIN PHOTO/ANTHONY A. MESTAS]