Coronavirus: Clark, Champaign fairs, set for late summer, still planning to go on

Representatives for the county fairs in Clark and Champaign Counties say they remain on the schedule despite uncertainty created by the coronavirus.

Clark County Fair Board executive director Dean Blair acknowledged 4-H and FFA exhibitors facing looming deadlines to acquire animals should proceed with caution, though, given that large gatherings are currently banned in Ohio through at least May 1.

“Let’s use a pig for example,” he said. “Some people go out and they spend $150 on a pig, and if you grow that pig up and are able to take it to the fair, wonderful, but by the same token, if you could not take that pig to the fair, you could do a lot of other things. You might end up butchering that pig for family consumption, or you might end up selling that pig at the market – you might do a lot of different things.

“But if you go out and, for example, you typically pay $2,000 for a pig because your only intention is to bring it to the fair and hopefully be a finalist or something in that way, you’ll want to be prudent, and you want to make good judgment this year of all years and not put anybody in financial harm’s way or something by overspending with the sole purpose of going to the fair.

“But frankly, they shouldn’t be doing that anyway.”

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The Clark County Fair is scheduled for July 24-31 with the Champaign County Fair set to begin a week later.

In Clark County, the deadline to enroll all projects has been moved back from April 1 to the 30th and animal possession dates have changed.

While beef projects have been in progress since at least December, new dates are May 1 for horses, rabbits, cavies and poultry; May 15 for market hots, market lambs, market goats and dairy feeder calves; and June 1 for meat chickens and meat ducks, dairy heifers and cows, beef heifers and feeders, alpacas, llamas, dairy projects, pygmy and production goats.

As far as acquiring animals, the sale process has already been disrupted by social distancing guidelines from the CDC and a stay-at-home order issued by the Ohio Department of Health and Gov. Mike DeWine to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

With large gatherings limited and then banned, some sales were forced to be canceled or moved online.

Potential exhibitors who have not already bought animals face a tough choice as far as making a financial investment in a project (including feed, medicine and other costs) with less idea how much money can be recouped if there is no opportunity to go through a sale at the fair, where typically class, division and overall winners especially bring much more than the market price.

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Nonetheless, Blair emphasized getting back to basics in the county where A.B. Graham founded 4-H in 1902.

“The real value for their family and their child is the experience, and that really is the thing we ought to be looking at each year,” Blair said. “What are we teaching these young people, and what are they what are they learning? What was the intent when A.B. Graham invented 4-H and when FFA was founded? What was the intent for a young person? To learn, and I believe with all my heart and I know it was all about work ethic and responsibility and learning and making the best better.”

Clark County 4-H director Patty House has shared a similar message with families this spring as the attempts to limit the spread of coronavirus have upended daily life and planning for the summer.

“I’ve encouraged them to set some goals for their family and 4-H, and those goals might be slightly different than they have in past years,” she said. “They might decide they want to try a new for each project this year based on their current family situation or that they might plan on spending more time with that dog, horse or livestock project than they have in the past because they’re at home now with stay-at-home orders.

“I like to say fair is the culminating experience to 4-H and FFA projects, but it really is the journey along the way that is so valuable to 4-H members, all those life skills that they’re going to learn from taking care of an animal or a growing plant or learning how to sew a garment together or take that perfect picture or build a bottle rocket and launch it. There are lots of skills learned through every single 4-H project. And so the goals this year may be slightly different.”

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As for the fair itself, Blair said planning continues more or less as usal.

“We have got an outstanding fair planned, really, just a wonderful fair planned,” he said. “And I can only say that I certainly hope we get to do it and certainly we are planning that. That’s the direction and the page we’re on. Our board is on that page. Our officers are on that page. Our staff is on that page, and certainly I’m on that page and so is our 4-H leader and our FFA advisors. And that’s about all we can do at this point is plan to have a great fair.”

That includes rides, musical performers in the big tent and the typical lineup of grandstand events such a tractor pulls, racing and the demolition derby.

“Even though all that planning is done, we are still very, very busy because this is a time when you bring on all your concessionaires and all your outside vendors, and that’s all coming on,” Blair said. “I’m getting ready to send out some sponsorship bills tomorrow, and we have to move ahead assuming that we’re going to have this fair so we will continue to work very hard, very diligently towards this.”

Champaign County Fair secretary Meredith Bodey indicated the intention is much the same there.

“Right now, we are proceeding with plans for the Champaign County Fair August 7-14, as usual,” she wrote in an email.

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