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Florida Youths to Exhibit at Elkhart County 4-H Fair


Published: Friday, April 3, 2020

Spring county fairs across the country have been devastated financially and emotionally with forced cancellations of their annual events from the COVID–19 pandemic. Thousands of exhibitors, non-profits, carnival operators and local businesses have been affected by these cancellations.

The youth exhibitors have been hit especially hard. Countless months of caring for animals and hours spent sewing entries, perfecting and practicing baking recipes and trying to capture the perfect picture to enter were all for naught.

For many of them, it was their last county fair as most fairs require the exhibitor to be under the age of 19 and/or still enrolled in grade school. Once these youths graduate, they're out and can only show in open shows. Unfortunately, not every county fair is fortunate enough to have those.

"The rules vary from fair to fair, but open shows typically allow anyone of any age to show as long as they live in the county," Miranda Muir, Elkhart County 4-H Fair general manager said. "Not every fair is as fortunate as we are to have one either and once these kids graduate, they're done for good."

The Elkhart County 4-H Fair was deeply saddened to hear of the cancellations, and especially felt for the youth exhibitors who lost the chance to exhibit at what might be their last county fair.

One of the dozens of fairs which had to cancel their annual fair included the Lake County Fair in Eustis, Fla.

"It was devastating for our board to have to make the decision, but we had no choice from the Florida state government," Stacey Wade, Lake County Fair general manager said.

As part of the efforts to help, the Elkhart County 4-H Fair is partnering with the Lake County Fair in Eustis, Fla. and is offering youth exhibitors that were affected by the unfortunate cancellation of the 2020 Lake County Fair, the opportunity to participate in this year's Elkhart County 4-H Fair.

The project was initiated by Kristy Ambrosen, programming coordinator for the Elkhart County 4-H Fair, who will be spearheading the project. She saw the opportunity and brought the idea to life.

According to Ambrosen, the project is being dubbed the "Youth Exhibitor Exchange Program" and will be a one-time program. She hopes that other northern summer and fall fairs will also follow suit in partnering with southern spring fairs to provide opportunities to the youth who missed out.

"I was ecstatic when I received the phone call about this opportunity as our exhibitors work so hard and we want to give them every opportunity to shine," Wade said. "We are making lemonade out of lemons."

Lake County Fair youths who entered projects such as swine, rabbits, photography, baking, etc. at the cancelled 2020 Lake County Fair will be allowed to become involved in certain competitions at the 2020 Elkhart County 4- H Fair.

Those who are interested in livestock will be provided animals and matched with families who will work with them, share in camaraderie, and make them feel part of the Elkhart 4-H Fair family. The youths will then be allowed to show in the open class divisions at the 2020 Elkhart County 4-H Fair.

Those who are interested in non-livestock projects will also be paired with Elkhart County families based on their interests and encouraged to become involved at the 2020 fair.

"We tend to think of the fair as one big family and that's what we are trying to offer here," Muir said. "We want to provide the Lake County Fair kids with the county fair experience that they will be missing out on this year due to the pandemic and show them some Midwest hospitality."

As part of the initiative, the Elkhart County 4-H Fair is establishing a one-time travel scholarship fund to assist with the travel costs associated with coming up to Goshen from Florida. With the support of donors, the fair hopes to provide up to ten travel scholarships to Lake County Fair youth.

Lake County Fair youths may apply for the travel scholarships by completing the application and submitting an essay. A volunteer committee has been established to then review and award the scholarships based on merit and involvement, with additional consideration given to students in their final years of 4-H and FFA.

Any individuals interested in contributing to the fund may do so online at www.4hfair.org/exhibitor-exchange- program or by sending checks directly to the Elkhart County 4-H Fair, 17746-D C.R. 34 Goshen, Ind. 46526.

Elkhart County 4-H Fair families interested in volunteering time towards the program may do so by contacting Kristy Ambrosen at kristy@4hfair.org.

The Elkhart County 4-H Fair will be held July 24 to Aug. 1 in Goshen.

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