After more than two months of discussion, the Burt County Ag Society Wednesday night made the difficult decision to suspend many components of the Burt County Fair until 2021.
There will be no carnival, open class exhibits, entertainment, or indoor/outdoor vendors at the fair this year. 4-H and FFA shows and static exhibits are expected to go on, but with modifications. The scope of those changes are as yet undetermined by state and local 4-H officials.
Fair officials did not believe the “down the hill,” portion of the fair could continue under present health department guidelines. Those restrictions currently ban parades, beer gardens and other outdoor events where people may come in close contact with each other.
But the fair board isn’t washing its hands of the whole production just yet.
Fair co-manager Johnnie Johnson said the Ag Society board decided that board members who want to work will do what they can to help meet the requirements to conduct 4-H competitions.
He said it wasn’t his job as a fair manager to tell kids they couldn’t compete. Johnson said his job was to make a place available if they want to and are able to.
“We’ll do all we can within the parameters given to us by the health department,” he said. “If there is further relaxation come July 1, that’s great, but we weren’t willing to wait until July 1 to find out.”
Johnson said the board is proposing a reopening plan the Elkhorn Logan Valley Public Health Department to allow for outdoor livestock shows. The plan must be approved by the health department and by 4-H officials.
Under the proposal, contestants would bring their animals to the fairgrounds on the day of the show and take them home when they’re done.
A smaller ring would be used for Saturday’s swine, sheep and goat shows. More time would be allowed between shows on Saturday to accommodate youth who may show swine and sheep, for example. A larger ring would be used for Sunday’s beef show.
He added that with an outdoor show, the weather may contribute to social distancing.
“If it’s hot, people might just come to see what they want to see and then leave,” he said. “If it rains, we may have to think of something else.”
He said the plan also includes holding the annual auction on Tuesday, but also with adaptations to allow social distancing.
Johnson said the fair board is trying to think outside of the box to find ways to create opportunities for youth under challenging circumstances. He said they wanted to be fair to everyone, including static exhibitors.
“The things kids normally do in competition on the fairgrounds, we want to give them the opportunity to do,” he said
Johnson also commended the 12-member Ag Society board for their work in finding possible solutions.
“These last two meetings have been the best fair board meetings I’ve ever been to,” he said. “Everybody showed up and everybody contributed their opinions. That’s what we needed.”