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Show will go on for many 4-H, FFA families

Johnson County Fair prepares for competitions with no crowds

IOWA CITY– For most Johnson County 4-H and FFA (Future Farmers of America) families, there will be a 2020 fair.
When the Johnson County Fair Board announced in mid-May it was canceling 2020 grounds and grandstand entertainment, it also promised to find a way to spotlight the accomplishments of 4-H and FFA members.
That opportunity is coming up July 26 through July 29.
The decision to eliminate large portions of the annual summer fair was made by the fair board and Iowa State University (ISU) Extension staff, volunteers and council members, with input from Johnson County Public Health and ISU, according to Johnson County Extension Youth Coordinator Kate Yoder.
“We really looked at the risk and the health and safety of the public and the 4-Hers and families, volunteers,” she said. “Ultimately, the fair board was the final decider on canceling the fair, but it was a collaborative effort to get to that point.”
The group also knew it wanted to make sure it gave 4-H and FFA families an opportunity to show their hard work, she said.
Since then, Yoder explained, fair board members, Extension staff and volunteers have been working to sort out what events could happen virtually and which could be done face to face while still being responsible and provide social distancing.
“This has been a pretty big swing and a learning curve for me, along with our families and our other volunteers as well,” noted Yoder, a native of rural South Amana who’s spent five years in Linn or Johnson County.
Typically, photos from the fair have been posted on social media platforms and a website, but there was no live-streaming or video footage.
A team at the Extension office has been preparing for the fair, but Yoder said project leaders have also been an immense help. With knowledge and expertise in each project area, she said, the leaders have helped shape the experience for county youth.
A typical Johnson County would feature 52 different 4-H events.
This year, there will be 21 events face-to-face, 12 events held virtually, and 20 events canceled.
Yoder said organizers wanted to make sure events were available for every different comfort level.
“Some families were comfortable with face-to-face options and some families would prefer virtual,” she reported.
The Extemporaneous Speaking competition and Livestock exhibits will be held live and in-person, while Educational Presentations can be entered live or virtually.
The Clothing Event and Clover Kid Opportunities will be held virtually, and Static Exhibits will be evaluated by judges with youth not present.
For speaking and educational presentations, family members only will be allowed to watch, with all touched surfaces disinfected after each presentation.
No interviews will be held for the clothing event, and exhibitors will be limited to one entry each in the $15 Challenge, Clothing Selection and Fashion Revue categories.
Static Exhibits will be judged state-fair style, with projects dropped off and judges viewing them with no conference judging. All exhibitors will be judged on the youth’s exhibit write-up and the exhibit.
The livestock shows will be spread out over seven days (July 25-31) in some of the larger arenas, Yoder said, to decrease the number of people at the fairgrounds at a time.
One to two shows will be judged each day, and while FFA and 4-H families may attend, all events will be closed to the public.
But the shows will be live-streaming on the Johnson County 4-H and Johnson County Fairgrounds Facebook pages, as well as a yet-to-be established YouTube channel, she said.
“We’ll be ready for the challenge,” she noted.
The deadline for registrations was July 8.
Yoder said there’s been a good response from kids.
In a normal year, people will wait until the last couple of days to register.
The families she’s talked to, however, are grateful for the effort.
“We’re working hard to make it happen and we hope the public will tune in virtually and support our 4-H and FFA members that way,” she said.
Volunteers will be taking photographs, Yoder added, and Hills Bank has graciously offered to continue its tradition of being at the fair to photograph kids with their projects.
Of the 20 events canceled, most would have difficulty complying with health and safety guidelines, she explained.
“We knew that we weren’t going to be able to make all of those happen,” Yoder noted.
Organizers looked at summer best practices from Iowa 4H, and guidelines from the CDC and Johnson County Public Health to decide whether events could go on.
Ag Olympics was supposed to be a brand-new event at fair this year, teaming kids from different clubs from all over the county together to complete different activities, she said.
The event had a lot of potential for spread because it included a lot of close proximity by team members and touching the same things, she added.
“Our intention for fair 2020 is to create an educational showcase opportunity for our youth, and some of the more fun events had to be let go so we could focus on creating a really solid, positive experience,” she said.