By Lasca Randels
WARSAW — Although the Kosciusko County Community Fair has been cancelled for 2020, most of the 4-H events will be held as planned.
This is good news for the approximately 700 kids and more than 250 volunteers who participate in the Kosciusko County 4-H program.
A plan was submitted to Purdue for formal approval to have a 4-H show this year, given the pandemic, and included detailed steps that would be taken to ensure social distancing. This included a close partnership with the Kosciusko County Health Department for guidance on protocols.
“We have been anxiously awaiting the governor’s announcement (held Wednesday, July 1) because a lot of our plans were contingent on moving to stage 5,” said Mindy Wise, 4-H Youth Development Educator for Purdue Extension Kosciusko County.
Wise, along with Renea Messmore, Vice-President of Kosciusko County 4-H Council, shared an update from the Board of Animal Health and the CDC, which stated that small mammals are susceptible to COVID-19.
This affects the caged critters category, which includes animals such as hamsters, mice, frogs, weasels and chinchillas. These animals will not be brought to the fairgrounds.
“We are still waiting on word about rabbits,” Wise said. “They were not named in the original report, but we should have final word on that soon.”
Those with small animals that are not allowed can still upload photos for virtual judging and remain eligible for awards.
The other livestock events are able to move forward as planned, Wise said.
Livestock exhibits include beef, poultry, swine, dairy, sheep, specialty goat, dairy goat, dairy steer and dairy calf. These events will begin on Monday, July 6, but will not be open to the public.
The horse and pony show will be held Sunday, July 19.
All 4-H participants were given the option of exhibiting their projects, including livestock, virtually or live.
Judging for general projects such as photography, baking and woodworking, was done in a drive-thru format Wednesday, July 1, and Thursday, July 2. Families were able to drive through the livestock barns, present their project to a judge and receive real time feedback on their exhibit, all while maintaining social distancing.
Wise said they were able to get photos of the participants and their projects. Exhibits that are selected to move on to the state fair will be judged based on those photos.
The photos are being put into a slideshow that will be available later.
“Mindy, her staff, 4-H council members and 4-H barn committees had to get really creative on how to maintain social distancing yet still have the 4-Hers be able to present their exhibits,” Messmore said.
Wise said they’ve had nothing but positive feedback from the families involved.
Regarding the livestock shows that will take place next week, Wise said the important thing they want to make sure people know is that these shows are not open to the public this year.
She explained that each exhibitor will be allowed to have two helpers with them.
An IT crew will be on hand to help livestream the events for those who cannot attend. Livestream links will be available on the Kosciusko County 4-H Facebook page.
Social distancing and sanitizing procedures are being implemented for next week’s shows. The number of attendees is limited, and there are clear social distancing measures being taken. Sanitation stations will be set up in all buildings being used.
“We would like to thank Wildman’s Business Group for their donations of supplies such as hand sanitizer and masks,” Messmore said.
Despite the changes to this year’s events — and the challenges involved — 4-H continues to provide opportunities for young people from all beliefs and backgrounds to learn and grow, to develop skills, to showcase and celebrate their achievements and to create positive change in their communities.