Ian Sharp, far left, conducts a survey of campers at the South Dakota State Fair with, from left, Mary Buchholz, Jessica Paulsen, Randy Buchholz and Nick Paulson.
Randy Buchholz made his first trip to the South Dakota State Fair when he was 7 days old.
His father, Kenneth Buchholz was the swine superintendent at the fair, a position now held by Randy. Randy was born on Aug. 22, and 7 days later, the family packed up for their yearly jaunt to Huron.
Why? Because his father had to start checking in the many swine entries that come for the annual exposition.
Later, his father, Kenneth Buchholz, served on the State Fair Board and was among those instrumental in building the new open class swine barn.
Randy said when his father was the superintendent they were operating out of several smaller barns at the same location — in the northeast corner of the fairgrounds.
Randy’s first recollection about the fair was showing swine. “I have a picture at home when I was 4 years old, showing with my grandfather,” he said. His grandfather is the late Henry Buchholz.
At the age of 8, he entered sheep, beef and swine in the 4-H and Future Farmers of America competition.
How did he do?
“I got a red ribbon for my steer, blue for the sheep and purple on the hogs,” he said. “We knew then what we were good at.”
Randy is a third generation purebred swine breeder living in the Hitchcock area. His day job is working at the Heartland State Bank in Tulare, where his wife, Mary, also is employed.
Another unique thing about the Buchholz family is they have camped at the fair for 50 years.
“I love the fair,” he said. “It is a place where families can come and do things together.”
Randy also has served 10 years on the Tulare Board of Education and was part of the consolidation with Hitchcock.
After 12 years of school board service, he decided the new school was off to a good start and it was time for someone else.
As a member of the state Extension Board, Randy assisted with the 4-H dance and the 4-H barbecue.
Now that his two children are on their own, he isn’t quite as involved with fair activities. But, serving as swine superintendent keeps him involved and the family tradition going.
He also has judged many sheep, swine and beef shows in the early days, but had to quit that when his children started to compete.
By camping on the fairgrounds, Randy said: “You see all the people you see only twice a year.”
“They’ve become special friends,” he said. “The people we’ve camped with have attended our kids graduations, weddings and other events.”
He added: “We all have the same interests.”
Randy said it’s his belief that 4-H is not about purple or blue ribbons, its about spending time with your family.
“Anytime you can do things with family it’s worth it,” he said. “Some people have cabins or motorcycles; some like to show pigs,” he said.
His two children are Jessica, a physician’s assistant living in Alexandria, Minn., and Aaron, a senior at South Dakota State University majoring in agriculture business and animal science.
When the State Fair is not in session, Randy has other activities where he uses the facilities in Huron.
He sponsors a Club Pig Sale in April. Held in the FFA building, he sells club pigs to young people.
In July, he hosts a sheep and pig sale entitled “Showtime Classic.” The site for this event also is the State Fairgrounds.
Randy said he gives $3,000 in prize money to the young people who participate. The prize money goes out for showing pigs, showmanship and judging competition.
“Every kid gets money,” he said. “We try to make it a fun day and it just keeps growing.”
Randy said the Showtime Classic is a lot of work. Whenever he starts thinking about giving it up, he said, “Someone will come up to make a donation of $50 or $100 to help with the prize money so it just keeps going.”
“I’ve got some tremendous sponsors,” he said, adding that the classic is one day when families come to Huron and do things together.”
As the swine superintendent, Randy came to the fair on Wednesday to begin checking in the open class hogs. During the past two years, the open class entries have increased from 50 to 200. The show was held Thursday.
On Friday, he checked in the 4-H hogs and FFA breed species. The 4-H show is held on Saturday and the breed specials show today.
The fair winds up on Monday with the FFA and Derby shows.
Randy said the State Fair Advisory Commission has been receptive to everything we’ve talked about.
Noting the competition the fair gets from schools scheduling football games on Friday night, Randy suggested that the week of the fair be an open date for the athletic teams.
“They all have an open date,” he said. “Why can’t it be the Friday of the fair?”
Randy said the fair affects “a lot of people.”
“Those involved with Sioux Falls Roosevelt or Sioux Falls O’Gorman probably don’t care, but a lot of people do.”
As a young 4-H participant, Randy said: “Being with friends is why you come to the fair. Showing is fun, but …!”
“I’d come to the fair if they had it in December,” he said, “and a lot of other people would too.”
And as he ended his interview, he pointed across the swine complex to his daughter who had just arrived from Alexandria to take in the fair. “It gets in your blood,” he said.