The Carroll County 4-H & FFA Fair will go on this year, but because of the coronavirus pandemic, the event will not be open to the public.
Jim Weishaar, chairman of the fair board, said Wednesday the executive board of Carroll County 4-H and FFA made the decision after much deliberation. The fair will be held Aug. 1 to 7 — one day shorter than normal because there will be fewer events.
“It was not an easy decision to make,” he said.
According to Weishaar, exhibitors and their families will be welcome to the event, but private security will be in place to ensure members of the public do not enter. There will be no entertainment and no parade, and food will be provided to exhibitors outdoors. Livestock shows will occur, but be limited to one species per day to limit the amount of people in the Carroll County Agriculture Center. Not all indoor exhibits will be able to occur, a change from the norm that Weishaar said will be communicated to exhibitors.
Buyers planning to attend the Friday livestock sale may come in person by pre-registering, but they will also be able to participate virtually, Weishaar said. They are also in the process of preparing the livestock shows to be live streamed, he said. More details about this process will be provided in the future.
“For a long time we continued to try to plan in the hopes that we could hold a normal event,” Weishaar said, but it became apparent this would not be a typical year.
The executive board chose to hold a modified fair so local youth in 4-H and FFA can still showcase their talent while being safe, he said.
“Our whole goal this year has been to provide opportunities to the kids that have worked so hard,” Weishaar said.
Hand sanitizer and hand washing stations will be available and monitored by a cleaning crew, which will also attend to the restrooms, according to Weishaar. He said the fair board is working with Carroll County Health Department to plan the event and will follow its suggestions.
Masks may not be required in cases when there is adequate social distancing, Weishaar said, noting the mask policy is being developed. “It’s still a work in progress,” he said.
Andrea Hanley, deputy director of the county Bureau of Environmental Health, confirmed the health department is working with fair board officials to plan the event to be as safe as possible. The bureau has been working with local businesses and vendors throughout the pandemic, Hanley wrote in an email.
“While we recommend that people avoid large gatherings, especially those who are at higher risk for serious illness from COVID-19, these events are no longer prohibited by state order, so we want to ensure that all possible measures are being taken to reduce the risk of spreading the virus,” Hanley wrote.
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The fair board is directly communicating with exhibitors about its decision, and Weishaar said feedback has been positive so far. He said they seem happy to have the opportunity to show their work at the fair.
Westminster resident Crystal Stowers, 19, is a longtime member of 4-H. She shows sheep, cattle, goats and pigs, and is also a youth representative on the fair board.
This year marks her last opportunity to show her animals at the fair before she ages out of 4-H.
Once COVID-19 hit Carroll County, Stowers said many 4-H students were worried whether there would be a fair. They had to consider if it was worth investing in animals they might not be able to sell, she said.
“At least everyone else is still able to show,” Stowers said. “I’m grateful that at least we’ll have something ... .”
Stowers pointed out silver linings, acknowledging that the lack of crowds will allow exhibitors to move their animals from one ring to another with more ease. It should also be cooler in temperature, with fewer people. Weishaar said that in a good year they typically see 50,000 people in a week.
Weishaar said information about the fair will be provided to exhibitors before the fair’s start, but anyone with questions may contact the fair staff at email@example.com or by calling 410-848-3247.