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Elkhart County 4-H Fair Is Still a Work in Progress


Published: Friday, May 22, 2020

The Elkhart County 4-H Fair will go on this summer, but exactly what kind of show will be presented remains under consideration by event organizers and Purdue University Extension with the final determination revealed in early June.

On Tuesday, Elkhart County extension director Robert Kelly released an open letter to "the Elkhart County 4-H Community and community members at large" indicating that numerous options—including a virtual version of the fair—remain in play in the wake of Purdue Extension's May 15 announcement giving "the green light to allow counties the option to host in-person events for July, including participation at county fairs."

And in an open letter addressed to Elkhart County on Monday, Miranda Muir, general manager of the Elkhart County 4-H Fair, wrote:

"Our Elkhart County 4-H Fair is a 501c3 not-for-profit organization, run separately from the Purdue Cooperative Extension and 4-H programs. It is important we distinguish this as our executive team and full fair board will now be tasked with the continued evaluation of the COVID-19 situation, the feasibility to both financially and physically maintain necessary standards to keep our community safe, and the ultimate decision regarding our beloved summertime celebration."

Both Kelly and Muir acknowledged the need to follow guidelines and regulations that will be in place to operate and allow participation in the fair, and to carry out necessary "modifications."

"Both of our great organizations partner together to promote 4-H Youth Development and showcase the hard work and learning of our youth," Kelly wrote. "Both Purdue Extension and the Elkhart County 4-H Fair board volunteers and staff have been working diligently to review the guidelines and develop a plan of action.

"Over the next two weeks, our two organizations will continue to work together with local health officials and review the guidelines of state and national best practices."

However, Kelly left open the possibility that certain aspects of the fair may not include in-person interaction.

"Whether virtually, or in-person, what we know for sure is our 4-H youth will have the opportunity to showcase their talent, learning and hard work," he said. "The Elkhart County 4-H Fair will be making their announcement around June 1 on whether or not they will host an in-person fair, and we will be supportive of their decision as our groups work together for the betterment of our community."

Nevertheless, Muir's letter put forth a vision that's familiar to fairgoers.

"This year marks my 25th anniversary as an employee of a county fair," she wrote. "Never did I dream all those years ago my love for my own hometown celebration would lead me on such a beautiful life journey and bring me so many amazing experiences, friends and memories.

"I have always felt I am a true testament of just how important these events are in the lives of so many, across the country and beyond. Now with two little ones of my own, I cannot tell you how much I am looking forward to full livestock barns, the smell of fair food and the sparkle of carnival lights. It is for all of these reasons that I can truly assure you these are some of the most trying times of my life and I know many on our team feel the same.

During the next few weeks, we will continue to work closely with local health officials, consider the guidance of state and national publications and brainstorm possible modifications to this year's fair. Please continue to pray for all the members of our team who are working extra hard, giving countless hours and all their passion in search of a successful outcome. We love you Elkhart County and cannot wait to be all together again."

Several county fairs in Michigan have decided to conduct their shows independently from Michigan State University Extension, which has cancelled all in-person involvement with fairs this summer. Since MSU Extension is responsible for the official 4-H component that oversees registration and judging, the events are being billed as county youth fairs that will conduct farm-related competitions without 4-H sanctioning.

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