Douglas County Fair’s 4-H shows will go on, but all other fair staples are canceled; attendance strictly limited
photo by: File photo
This year’s Douglas County Fair will go on despite the coronavirus pandemic, but it will be a very restricted event, open only to 4-H participants and a few close friends and family members.
“The fair is not open to the public,” Kaitlyn Peine, 4-H youth development agent with Douglas County’s K-State Research and Extension office, said of the event, which is scheduled to run from July 28 through Aug. 1. “It’s just the opposite of a normal fair. We usually want as many people as possible to come out so they can see the work our young people put into their projects.”
Last month, as local COVID-19 case numbers began to increase sharply, Douglas County Fair Board members agreed they could not hold a traditional fair, and they canceled the festive events that typically draw crowds to the fairgrounds each summer. That means there will be no demolition derby, rodeo, musical performances or carnival attractions. Also canceled are the open-class competitions that allow county residents to show off their skills in such things as woodworking, photography and gardening.
The only thing the fair board preserved was the annual 4-H show, in which 4-H’ers exhibit the projects they have worked on for months, Peine said.
“Our kids have missed so much,” Peine said. “Graduations were canceled. They didn’t have proms and missed spring sports. I’m really proud our team and fair board will be able to provide a fair experience for our young people. We’re pleased we can provide them with an experience that rewards them for all the hard work they are putting into their fair projects.”
Still, Peine said it would be a different kind of 4-H fair. Unlike in past years, 4-H’ers won’t bring livestock and projects to exhibit throughout fair week, nor will any 4-H exhibitors or their families camp at the fairgrounds overnight tending animals kept in barns at the fairgrounds, she said.
“It will be a come-and-go experience,” she said. “4-H exhibitors will bring livestock or a project to the fair, show the animal or project and then take it home the same day. The next day, they may bring another project.
“It’s a different way of putting on a fair,” she added. “It’s a lot more work.”
Participants in the shows will be able to obtain entry bracelets for three other people. Anyone looking to receive an entry bracelet must complete a medical wellness log and wear a face mask, Peine said.
For those who can’t come to the livestock shows, the fair board has hired a professional crew to film the events, Peine said. The shows will be streamed live at dgcountyfair.com, where viewers can also find a schedule of events.
The number of 4-H’ers exhibiting at the fair is similar to past years, with 301 members showing projects this year, Peine said. However, those 4-H’ers completed fewer projects than usual, she said.
“One of the reasons for the reduced number of projects is we were unable to host the same number of face-to-face project sessions as normal because of the lockdown,” she said.
All of these plans are contingent on the county remaining in Phase 3 of its pandemic reopening status, Peine said. Should the county slip back into Phase 2, the 4-H show would be entirely virtual, with participants using an app to upload videos of their projects for judges to review, Peine said.
“We hope that doesn’t happen,” she said. “That would be even more work.”