WAHOO – Despite the changes brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, 4-H participation in the 2020 Saunders County Fair was on par with previous years.
Cole Meador, assistant Saunders County Extension educator for 4-H, said 518 youth showed animals or brought exhibits to the fair, which is about average.
Before the fair took place, Meador and the extension office staff were concerned that families would stay away because of the risk of contracting the coronavirus, which causes COVID-19. But in the end, that didn’t happen.
“Overall, we had excellent participation in this year’s fair,” said Meador.
There were a total of 2,623 entries in the fair this year, also about average, Meador said. The only areas where participation was down were project areas, including specific animal species contests and the static exhibits, which includes food, clothing, photography, floriculture and other such subjects. And that was probably due to the pandemic.
“We’re going to say that COVID was a piece of that,” Meador said.
Meador and the staff worked for months to modify the fair format to fit the Directed Health Measures put in place by the state because of the pandemic. The schedule was revamped to provide more time between animal shows, which gave the 4-Hers more opportunity to stay six feet apart.
“We were extremely pleased with the modified schedule,” said Meador. “We had nothing but positive feedback from fair judges, participants, superintendents and everyone involved.”
Some contests were moved to new locations on the fairgrounds to allow more space for social distancing, including the ATV and tractor driving contests. These events were typically held in the Gayle Hattan Pavilion, but were moved to the rodeo arena. However, the tractor driving contest was forced back to the pavilion because of rain.
“We’re thinking about potentially leaving a couple of contests in the new locations we had this year,” said Meador.
The extension team also took on a new challenge this year as they livestreamed the shows and contests. This ended up being a learning experience for the extension staff, Meador said. YouTube was the platform they chose, but they learned after the fact that 1,000 subscribers are needed in order to use a mobile device to stream the shows. Not having that many subscribers yet, the staff had to use a laptop computer instead, which made things a more difficult than expected.
“Next year we’re looking at a different platform to use,” Meador added.
Despite the issues, the feedback regarding livestreaming was positive, especially from family members who live out of state. They were thrilled to be able to see their grandchildren or nieces and nephews compete in real time at the fair, Meador said.
“Those families really enjoyed being able to log on,” he said.
There were a few less spectators at the 4-H shows this year because of the pandemic. The bleachers were removed from the Gayle Hattan Pavilion to prevent close contact between spectators, which may have been a factor. Family members had to bring their own chairs and were asked to sit in groups and stay six feet away from non-family members, spreading them out around the show arena.
This was Meador’s second year in charge of the 4-H part of the Saunders County Fair, and he felt it was a success, despite the challenges brought on by COVID-19.
“From our office’s standpoint, we thought the fair went exceptionally well given the circumstances we were given this year,” he said.
Families were thankful that the fair took place, given that some other counties in the state cancelled their fairs all together this year.
“We got a lot of thank yous from families,” said Meador.
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