This year’s Douglas County Fair likely won’t be open to the public, but 4-H displays still planned
photo by: Mike Yoder
The Douglas County Fair likely will not be open to the public this year — meaning no demolition derby, no tractor pulls and no carnival rides — but 4-H divisions will still have the opportunity to display their projects.
The annual event had been scheduled for July 28 to Aug. 1 before the coronavirus pandemic upended plans for spring and summer events. Tuesday night, the Douglas County Fair Board and the Kansas State University Research and Extension Office of Douglas County held a joint meeting and “tentatively adopted” two proposed plans for a more limited fair during those same dates, according to Margaret Kalb, executive secretary of the Douglas County Fair Board.
The two plans, which had been created prior to Tuesday’s meeting, were contingent upon which phase of the governor’s reopening framework Kansas was in at the end of July. The governor’s plan did not allow for fairs or festivals until its third phase, which would not begin earlier than June 8 and could be delayed if certain health metrics did not show progress. If the state had entered the third phase by the end of July, organizers planned to hold the fair in person, albeit with restrictions. Otherwise, the fair would be held virtually. In either scenario, the fair would only be open for 4-H divisions to display their projects.
However, on Tuesday afternoon, Gov. Laura Kelly vetoed sweeping legislation that resulted in the expiration of her orders governing the reopening process, leaving those decisions in the hands of the state’s 105 county health departments. Douglas County subsequently adopted Kelly’s Phase Two restrictions in a local health order and said it would announce further reopening phases before June 8.
Because local restrictions remain unchanged for the time being, the two plans for the fair will remain in place, Kalb said.
There will be no open class exhibits at the fair this year, and there will also be no concerts and no demolition derby, among other fair favorites, Kalb said.
“We just didn’t know how in the world we would be able to practice social distancing when we have sometimes between 4,000 to 5,000 people at our demolition derby, plus another 3,000 participating in the carnival rides,” she said.
Kalb said she expects Douglas County will be in a reopening phase similar to the governor’s Phase Three by late July, allowing for a limited in-person fair. But should Kansas see a surge in cases or increased restrictions, a virtual fair is still a possibility.
If organizers hold the fair virtually, participants would submit videos of each project entry and receive feedback via recorded video or written comments from a judge. This scenario would include a virtual livestock auction.
For the in-person fair, participants and judges would practice social distancing, be encouraged to wear face masks and have the option to submit their projects virtually, should they so choose.
Projects will not be on public display and only exhibitors and their immediate families will be allowed on the grounds. For livestock projects, no livestock will stay overnight, and exhibitors will be encouraged to show out of a trailer when possible. Social distancing will be practiced inside the show ring, and the livestock auction will still take place virtually.
“We are going to try and do everything possible to make it a good experience for the 4-H kids,” Kalb said, noting that they will “still get a chance to show their animals.”
“We want to give the 4-Hers every opportunity to have that face-to-face interaction with the judges, but we want to do it in the safest way possible,” she said.
A full description of each fair scenario is available on the Douglas County Fair’s website, dgcountyfair.com.