The 2020 Cherokee County Fair kicked off on Tuesday night with the annual horse show outside the Cherokee County Fairgrounds.

Five youth contestants brought in their horses to compete for Grand Champion honors. The students also vied for halter class and Western pleasure.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the fair has seen fewer numbers of entries, so they cut the competition.

“We aren’t going to have any timed events,” said horse superintendent and Cherokee County Fair Board Member Kaye Callaway.

The horse riders ranged in age from 10 to 15, about the same age as the horses they rode. Jericho Bukart rode Bubblegum, a sleek brown mare. He and his sister, Ayla, compete with Hulbert 4-H. Aside from breeding horses, the 10-year-old also maintains an award-winning bug box where he raises grasshoppers.

The horses were divided and judged by mares and geldings. The organizers judged the mares first, with Jessica Williams taking the first prize for her horse, Stormy. Ayla took second place with her horse Josie, and Jericho took third with Bubblegum.

Trae Kupsick competed against his younger brother for gelding halter class and took first place with his horse Leroy. Tanner Kupsick came in second with Goofy. Trae attends Tahlequah Middle School, and Tanner goes to Greenwood Elementary School.

Jessica, from Peggs, took Grand Champion for her mare Stormy, and Trae took Reserve Grand Champion. It's Leroy’s second year in a row winning Reserve Grand Champion.

These young people work hard during the year to prepare the horses with minimal help from their parents, and they make time to do their homework so they can compete.

“I have to work hard during the day, and I try to get as much of my homework done at school, so I have time for this,” said 12-year-old Trae.

Supporting their youth are their parents, who pulled up lawn chairs with bright smiles on their faces. The invitation-only competition was an intimate start for the 2020 Cherokee County Fair.

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