SANTA MARIA, Calif. - The Santa Barbara County Fair doesn't officially open until Wednesday, but the Santa Maria Fairpark was already buzzing with activity on Monday.
"More than 1,500 head of animals, around 1,200 to 1,300 kids and their families are moving into the barns, getting their animals ready to show and preparing for the fair itself," said Richard Persons, Santa Maria Fairpark CEO.
For the next several days, students from around Santa Barbara County and South San Luis Obispo County will be showing their livestock, including pigs, goats, sheep, beef, rabbits and much more.
"I'm super excited," said Nipomo FFA student James Philson. "I've been waiting all year for this."
Philson is a second-year FFA student who is showing a pig at this year's fair.
"I'm ready to show my animal," said Philson. "I want to place high and go to market."
One of the top incentives for livestock students is the financial windfall that may come during the auction.
"It goes into the thousands of dollars," said Philson. "It goes back to what you put into it is probably what you're going to get out of it. If you prepare good enough, you can make really good money off your livestock animal."
Persons backs that up with some impressive numbers.
"In the State of California, this is the highest grossing auction in the entire state," said Persons. "The record was set two years ago at $2.965 million."
Persons noted this year's auction total could be negatively impacted by this year's cancellation of the poultry show.
The move was announced earlier this year due to a outbreak in California of virulent Newcastle Disease, a disease of birds that can also be contracted by humans.
The cancellation of poultry shows has been enacted by fairs statewide.
While students may ring up big profits at auction, many say what they receive through their participation goes far beyond dollars and cents.
"For me it's the experience that I get to come home at the end of the day and look back at all the fun times that I've had with my animal, what my animal taught me. What my ag teachers have taught me," said Arroyo Grande FFA Talya Cullum. "It's been a fun experience. Something I'll always look back on and remember. Times in high school. It's just a good time."
Philson agreed, noting longterm benefits to his participation in the program.
"It gives me a lot of fundamental lessons in life, especially responsibly," said Philson "It gives me a sense of business preparation."
Students will show their animals over the next few days.
The auction is set to take place on Friday and Saturday.
The Santa Barbara County Fair opens at noon on Wednesday and runs through Sunday, July 14.
For more information, visit the Santa Barbara County Fair website.