Even though the 2020 Iowa State Fair was canceled, it didn’t stop an annual fair tradition from taking place.

For the first-time in its 38-year history, the annual Governor’s Charity Steer Show (GCSS) was not held at the Iowa State Fair. Instead, it was hosted by Iowa State University at the Jeff & Deb Hansen Agriculture Learning Center in Ames

“The Governor’s Charity Steer Show is a long-standing tradition and benefits a very good cause,” said Tanner Lawton, Iowa Cattlemen’s Association staff member and co-chair of this year’s GCSS in a press release back in June.

The group knew the show and auction probably wouldn’t be the same as it has been in years past, but their priority was making sure they had a successful fundraiser for the Ronald McDonald House Charities in Iowa.

MaKenzie Smith of Charter Oak was the runner-up in the Governor’s Charity Steer Show, which was held on Saturday, Aug. 15. Her steer, Merle, was shown by Lt. Governor Adam Gregg.

This was MaKenzie’s first time to show in the Governor’s Charity Steer Show. Now, all of the Smith siblings, MaKayla, MaKarlie, Dalton, MaKenzie, and MaKia, have participated in the show. MaKia won the steer show last year (2019).

To make the show more special, it was MaKenzie’s last cattle show as she just graduated from high school.

Smith’s steer was one of 25 steers from across the state that competed for the championship designation, showmanship honors, and the People’s Choice award. Each of the steers has been raised by an Iowa youth involved in the cattle industry, and celebrities accompanied the young steer owners.

Having been involved with the GCSS in the past with her siblings, MaKenzie said the atmosphere was different this year, not being held at the Iowa State Fair in the Livestock Pavilion. The crowd was limited, everyone in the show ring had to wear a mask, and the event was live-streamed.

Normally each year, exhibitors participating in the GCSS go visit the Ronald McDonald house in Des Moines. Due to COVID-19, they weren’t able to visit this year, but MaKenzie said the presidents of the three Ronald McDonald houses came to talk to them, and the exhibitors decorated lunch bags for the children in Sioux City.

Also different at this year’s GCSS was the voting for the People’s Choice. MaKenzie said they had to send in an article that was posted to the GCSS Facebook page. People could vote from Wednesday to Friday morning. Then people voted again on the top three Friday night to Saturday. The person with the most “likes” won the People’s Choice.

MaKenzie found herself in a unique position the weekend of the GCSS. She moved into college at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion on Friday morning, then drove straight to Ames (about three-and-a-half hour drive) to get her steer situated and checked in for the show. She went back to campus on Monday and started classes on Wednesday.

This year, over $254,000 was raised through the auction and show for the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Iowa. The buyers for MaKenzie’s steer were Sioux County businesses, Malisa Smith, and Adam and Cari Gregg for $9,388.40.

The cause of the Governor’s Charity Steer Show is special to MaKenzie.

“When I was born, I spent 10 days in the NICU so my parents stayed in the Rainbow House, which is like the Ronald McDonald house,” MaKenzie said. “It is a good feeling to know it (the money from the auction) goes back to something my parents had to experience before.”

The event raises money for the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Iowa. Since its inception in 1983, the Governor’s Charity Steer Show has raised over $4.1 million for the Ronald McDonald Houses of Iowa. The home is away from home for families of children who are being treated in nearby hospitals. Ronald McDonald Houses are location in Des Moines, Iowa City, and Sioux City.

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