I’ve watched and heard the comments since the Robeson Regional Agricultural Fair was canceled. Most people, though disappointed, understand that the reason for canceling the show was in the best interests of public safety. Others, let’s just say, are not so understanding. Also keep in mind that following this decision, the fair lost one valued board member due to COVID-19 and another was hospitalized. Unfortunately, this reinforces the need for your decision. However, this does not mean that there are no questions surrounding the 4-H Livestock shows. Here are a few answers to questions that have been floating around.
Are all fair competitions canceled? Almost. FFA is still working on the planning of the student truck and the tractor train and 4-H is working on the livestock shows. FFA and 4-H teens come from across the state to attend these shows. For some of the teenagers they are part of a showmanship circuit where they have to appear in a certain number of shows in order to collect points which are translated into awards. Fortunately, the cattle show sponsors have agreed to keep their funds so that we can offer rewards for the shows. Needless to say, it’s more fun when there is a fair and the teens are happy to take some of their bonus money and spend it halfway. What will change is that the cattle shows are not held on the exhibition grounds. As the fair is closed, we will be holding the shows at a different location, so there will be no competitions on the fairgrounds.
If the fair is canceled due to COVID-19, how do you think the youth exhibition will be safe? There is a state policy from 4-H on COVID-19 protocols that we will be closely following. One of the things we’re going to do is have everyone who appears and everyone in the building wear a mask. We will also do our best to be socially distant in the show ring (sometimes large animals can change the best plan). Those who exhibit are also aware that if they are not doing well they will have to stay home. This has been something they have been doing with all 4-H programs for months, and it is currently normal for most of our 4-H families. If the fair were going on, the public would go in and out of the building (it’s often crowded) and, if we’re honest, it would be difficult at best to get masks through when the audience walks through the cattle house. Therefore, it is easier for us to practice and manage security protocols when there are fewer people in the building. We don’t expect the general public from the audience, only the families of the performers. Fewer people, fewer transmission options.
Why are these shows so important? Robeson County 4-H members spent nearly six months raising, grooming, and working with these animals for the show. Not only have you been looking forward to it, but 4-H strives to do as much as possible personally. In animal research projects, people often assume that the animals are the project. In fact, it is the youngsters who show what they have learned, communicate the responsibilities they have taken on, and have the opportunity to learn through action. These shows make a huge difference in the lives of our youth.
Even if the fair is canceled, remember that the main reason for our fair is the celebration and opportunity for agricultural training. Only this year it looks a little different.
Shea Ann DeJarnette is a 4-H Youth Development with North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Robeson County Center. She can be reached at 910-671-3276, by email at [email protected], or online at http://robeson.ces.ncsu.edu/.