According to the Bulloch County newspaper, local livestock breeders and the county's 4-H and FFA youth had been participating in the Savannah Fat Cattle Show as early as 1930. However, after Savannah's yards announced that the 1940 show was postponed indefinitely, White's Provisions and Cudahy Packing, the two largest meat-packing companies in the state of Georgia, requested that Statesboro's stockyards hold one of their own. The date of April 11, 1940, was chosen.
There were three main livestock auctions held in Statesboro: one at the Bulloch Stockyards, owned by O.L. McLemore; another at the Farmer's Daily Livestock Market, owned by Homer Parker; and another at the Statesboro Livestock Commission Company, owned by F.C. Parker.
A call went out for the best cattle to all livestock ranchers in Bulloch, as well as Bryan, Chatham, Evans, Liberty, Montgomery, Toombs and Wayne counties. All of those counties' 4-H and FFA student clubs were invited to participate as well.
The new Statesboro Fat Cattle Show was to be held at Homer Parker's yards and operated under the auspices of the United Georgia Farmers, local Rotary clubs and the Statesboro Chamber and Junior Chamber of Commerce. Elected as general chairman of the event was Bulloch’s J.E. Hodges.
Selected to be the lead auctioneer of the event was Pierce Leonard of Swainsboro, acknowledged by many as the premier livestock auctioneer in all of coastal Georgia. Local businesses soon had pledged more than $400 worth of cash and goods for prizes for the event.
The rules were simple: Everyone could participate in the event, as long as their cattle were taken off of water and feed 12 hours before the auction. A 1 percent fee would be assessed on all cattle sales. The prizes ranged from $1 to $10, depending on the class in which the cattle were judged.
A dinner was held at the Statesboro Women's Club on April 10 where all participants were honored. The next morning, local schoolchildren were given a tour of the animals. After the school groups were finished touring, the Statesboro High School band played from 11:30 a.m. until
12:30 p.m. while anxious participants and an eager audience ate lunch. Then, the real fun began.
Sharply at 1 p.m., auctioneer Leonard smacked his gavel and the auctions began. After the last gavel sounded, the 304 head of cattle entered into the first Statesboro Fat Cattle Show had netted a total of $18,788.62 in sales to White's and Cudahy's buyers.
The buyers paid between $9.75 and $10.50 per hundred-weight for choice-quality graded beef, while they paid between $9 and $9.50 for good-quality beef and between $8.50 and $9 for medium-quality beef.
The Grand Champion award for the show went to Stilson's own Montrose Graham for his 1,080-pound Hereford, and the Reserve Grand Champion award was given to Garner Hall Fields for one of the four steers he entered in the show.
In the 4-H Division classes, the lightweight winner was Merriam Bowen and the heavyweight winner was Montrose Graham; for the FFA Division classes, the lightweight winner was George Thomas Holloway and the heavyweight winner was Garner Hall Fields.
In the Open Ring Division, the Light Pen Class winner was E.L. Womack and the Heavy Pen Class winner was Garner Hall Fields. In the Negro Division, the winner was George Cone. Finally, the Home Bred and Fed Division winner was Garner Hall Fields.
Everyone agreed the event was a roaring success. Over the next decades, it grew in stature and broadened into three separate shows: one for fat cattle, one for fat barrows (uncastrated male pigs) and one for fat gilt (female pigs who hadn't yet born litters).
Roger Allen is a local lover of history. He provides a brief look at the area's historical past. Email Roger at firstname.lastname@example.org.