98th Little International a success after being delayed a year


Adrienne Lipinski, Reporter (She/her)

From the green chips to the red barn, Little International has been carrying on traditions at South Dakota State University for nearly 100 years and that tradition continued this past weekend with this year’s theme, “The Show Must Go On.”

Little I is one of the largest student-run events on campus that takes place over a two-day period. This year’s event was held March 26-27 at the Animal Science Arena. Seating was limited but the event was broadcast online and to businesses in downtown Brookings through Walton Webcasting.

The event featured over 135 exhibitors showing in seven different categories: swine, beef cattle, dairy cattle, goats, sheep, horse and lamb lead, an event where representatives of different clubs and organizations are charged with caring for and showing a sheep, among other activities.

In addition, students also could compete in Career Development Events (CDEs) like nursery and landscape, livestock judging, floriculture and more. There were also fitting competitions, where competitors are judged on their ability to groom an animal to highlight its physical strengths, for dairy, beef, horse, goats and sheep

Exhibitors who wished to do more than show an animal also competed in the Round Robin competition or for either High Point Freshman or High Point Upperclassman. To participate in Round Robin, exhibitors were required to win either champion or reserve overall showmanship in their species. This year’s Round Robin champion was Ryan Franz, with Adam Bierstedt receiving reserve.

Bierstedt also received High Point Upperclassman. High Point Freshman went to Emily Nold.

“I was shocked when I found out I won high point upperclassman. I was focused on Round Robin, so it wasn’t even on my mind,” Bierstedt said.

Bierstedt, a senior agriculture science major from Pipestone, Minnesota, has participated in Little I since he was a freshman. He is the youngest of five siblings, so he continued with the family tradition.

On average, he spent one to two hours every day preparing for his show. He advises students to never give up and to just keep working with their animals.

In past years, Little I welcomed 1,500 to 2,000 FFA and 4-H members to compete in non-showing events like CDEs, but with COVID-19 restrictions, they were not allowed to bring so many students from different states to campus safely. That forced the contests to move online.

Little I’s staff is made up of 130 students divided into 44 committees and is chosen in the fall. Despite these early preparations, Jacob Rausch, this year’s manager of Little I, didn’t receive approval to hold the event until Jan. 27.

“It felt like we were in limbo. We didn’t know what to expect,” Rausch said.

Rausch, along with Assistant Manager Grady Gullickson and the executive team, had to come up with multiple contingency plans not knowing what was going to happen. But when they received the go-ahead from the university, they got to work in earnest to create a successful event.

Every year, the staff comes up with a theme for the year’s show. Gullickson described “The Show Must Go On” theme as a perfect fit for this year and all the uncertainty the present staff, and last year’s staff, had to go through.

“It’s just the adversity from that statement and what we’ve had to accomplish this year,” Gullickson said. “It’s been a wild year and we were finally able to put this event on after two years, so it’s just being able to continue what we do on a yearly basis.”

Gullickson, a junior animal and agricultural science major from Flandreau, will be taking over next year as the 99th Little I manager. He served as the sheep superintendent his sophomore year.

Rausch was on the equipment committee his sophomore year, helped out his freshman year although he wasn’t a part of the staff and competed in the high school competitions prior to college. Jacob grew up hearing stories and wanted to surround himself with the quality of people who participated in Little I.

Despite COVID-19 restrictions, attendance was good both Friday and Saturday night, organizers said, and exhibitors commented about how smoothly the show went.

Entertainment activities were also planned in between the shows. The first event was the pig farmer scramble, where two teams of two staff members each had to run across the show ring to retrieve a straw bale while dodging pig panels held by the equipment committee. The second event was a roping event with a member of the rodeo team and Rausch as the target, dressed up in a T-rex costume. After being chased around the ring, he then had his feet tied up by his brother, Peter.

Finally, as part of a fundraiser, organizers held an event called “Kiss the Pig, Rausch vs. Gullickson.” Those in attendance could make donations for who they wanted to kiss the pig. Rausch raised $42 and Gullickson raised $186, with Gullickson’s dad donating $100. Gullickson said it ranks as one of his favorite Little I memories.

“I thought I’d get away with just kissing it on the shoulder, but they made me do it twice,” Gullickson said. 

With so much uncertainty because of the COVID-19 pandemic canceling last year’s event, this year’s staff were unsure about what the event would look like. 

“The most difficult thing was to have so many question marks in front of us,” said Jacob Rausch, manager for the 98th Little I. “We never knew for sure what it was going to look like, or the things we had to do to make it happen, or if we could even have an event at all.”

To create a safe event for people to attend, hand sanitizer stations were placed all over the arena, every other row was blocked off to promote social distancing and masks were required and given out when needed. Door handles and surfaces that many people touched were routinely wiped down. On top of that, a safety committee was created for this year’s event that went around to make sure people were following the rules.

Rausch and Gullickson are excited for the upcoming centennial celebration in two years, and they have already been making plans, creating ideas and saving up money to mark the occasion.

“We want to get the ball rolling because we all want to come back to the 100th Little I as alumni,” Rausch said. “We want to properly celebrate that centennial celebration.”