Dubois County 4-H Fair to be held virtuallyMay 19, 2020
By ALLEN LAMAN
BRETZVILLE — The Dubois County 4-H Fair will look a little different this summer.
Due to pandemic-related uncertainties and an extensive list of difficult-to-enforce safety precautions, the annual gathering will migrate from the fairgrounds to the internet.
“It wasn’t an easy decision,” said Lisa Wilson, 4-H youth development educator for Dubois County Purdue Extension. “Our 4-H council talked for a long time last night and tried to find ways that we can make this work. Nobody is really excited about this decision, but we know it is the best decision given the policies we would have had to follow.”
Indiana’s Back on Track plan allows for events of the fair’s size to be held during its scheduled dates in mid-July. But that plan is subject to change, and the possibility of a shift weighed on fair organizers.
“In order to have our in-person fair this year, our county would need to be at stage 5 of the Back on Track [Indiana] plan,” Wilson explained. “And there’s no guarantees that we will be there. Fair takes an enormous amount of volunteer hours and an enormous amount of money to make happen. And if we can’t guarantee that we will be at stage 5, it would be a little irresponsible to be putting 4-H program funds and so many volunteer hours into something that may or may not be able to happen.”
In addition, requirements from Purdue University to use personal protective equipment, social distancing, temperature checks, and tracking of participants and visitors on the grounds would make it nearly impossible to comply with policy and still provide a positive experience for area youth, a press release reads.
“We do not have a large enough volunteer base and a large enough staff to be able to follow all of the guidelines that would have had to been followed for an in-person fair,” Wilson said.
The virtual fair will take place the same days that the annual gathering was set to be held — from Monday, July 13, to Friday, July 17. Local 4-H members have utilized online enrollment in recent years, and now, that technology will lay the ground work for this year’s web-based iteration.
That enrollment system allows for the uploading of pictures, videos and documents. Once those clips are uploaded, extension office members will compile a shareable video or PowerPoint of all work that was submitted.
“We do certainly have a system that is ready and able to help us make that happen,” Wilson said, adding that leadership will learn from other states that have already hosted successful virtual fairs. “We definitely won’t be working from scratch.”
Participants will have the opportunity to show their animals either in a series of photos or in a video. Youth projects will still be judged in some way, and individuals will still be selected to move on to the state fair, which could be held in person in August.
“Hopefully, next year, everybody will just be really excited to come out to the fair because they will have missed it one year,” Wilson said of the county fair. “It’s very clear that people are going to miss it this year. There’s a lot of sad faces out there today. But I think that it’s what’s best for our program, and it’s what’s best for our community at this point.”
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