While the Katy Rodeo may be postponed for an undetermined amount of time, the Katy ISD Future Farmers of America Livestock Show is still set for Feb. 16-20 and local groups are still poised to …
While the Katy Rodeo may be postponed for an undetermined amount of time, the Katy ISD Future Farmers of America Livestock Show is still set for Feb. 16-20 and local groups are still poised to support FFA students. This includes the 501(C)3 group, Friendly Li’l Spenders, a sort of co-op of donors that work together to ensure every FFA student sees support from the community at large.
“Our job isn’t to buy the big animals, the big banners. We sit on our hands and all the fun starts when everybody’s getting these big numbers and buying the champions and reserve champions and all that and we just kind of lay low,” said Friendly Li’l Spenders President Rick MacDonald. “Then every year, there’s a dip in the action and that’s when we start coming in.”
The Spenders' goal is to ensure that those dips in bidding at the FFA auction that follows the livestock show don’t lead to a student not getting a return on their hard work, MacDonald said. Many FFA participants get up very early to care for their animals each morning, seven days a week, he said. They’re also back in the afternoon to ensure the animals are properly groomed and fed again. The Spenders work together to ensure that each student gets at least a $1,200 return for their effort, he said.
Friendly Li’l Spenders was founded in 2005 as the Li’l Spenders and began supporting Katy ISD FFA students from throughout the district through small co-op style donations to purchase animals. In 2016, the group merged with the Friends of Katy FFA and changed its name to the current moniker. Since its founding, the nonprofit group has contributed more than $244,500 in support of KISD agriculture students.
Students can sign up to be sponsored by the Spenders throughout the year by reaching out to the group through a letter, MacDonald said. That places the students on a list that members who attend the auctions watch to ensure each sponsored student gets at least the $1,200 minimum. Often, the group bids strategically on sponsored and non-sponsored students’ animals to help drive up auction prices, he said.
Katy ISD Agricultural FFA Activities and Events Specialist Guy James said more than 440 students will participate in this year’s livestock show with 122 of those making it into the auction that follows the show. Animals not sold at auction – about 320 animals this year – are generally sold via a barn sale. Students use the proceeds to help pay for college or put toward animals for the following year’s FFA events among other purposes.
This year’s show and auction will be operated a bit differently due to SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, said Ashlee Laird, KISD Agriculture Education specialist. Due to seating capacity limitations, buyers and parents will be allowed in the livestock show stadium for the show and sale, she said, but with a capacity of no more than 800 people to ensure social distancing. However, the show will also be available virtually to observers and bidders via katy.fairwire.com, she said. Those interested in participating in the event should register ahead of time.
James said the facility will be sanitized between each species’ show in order to ensure the risk of spreading COVID-19 is minimized in addition to the capacity limit.
From the Friendly Li’l Spenders’ perspective, MacDonald said contributions are still being accepted through friendslsffa.com and clicking on the donate button and that the group is committed to ensuring every penny goes to the FFA student participants.
“Our goal is, we sit there to the very end. We’re going to make sure … that we’re covering as many of those barn sale animals as we can (and) to lift the prices of the ones that are at auction to try to make sure (the students) feel like they’ve accomplished something because they work very hard on a project (animal) to get it out to the barn sale or auction,” said Friendly Li’l Spenders Vice President of Publicity Toni Williams.
Correction: The Friendly Li'l Spenders group has raised more than $244,500 since its founding. This correction has been appended.