4-H portion of fair goes online

Chad Frey
This year there will not be livestock shows or 4-H exhibits at the Harvey County Fair -- those portions of the fair have been moved online.

In an odd year for just about everything, Kansas 4-H members are tweaking their projects with an eye toward showing their peers and community members what they’ve been learning — a tradition of the county fair.

In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, the county fair will go on … in one way or another. In Harvey County, that means 4-H projects and competitions will be shown online.

“With heavy hearts we announce that we will be moving to a virtual fair,” wrote Anne Pitts, 4-H and human development agent for Kansas State Research and Extension of Harvey County, in a letter to Harvey County 4-H members last week. “This was not an easy decision and it is one we do not take lightly. We are making this decision for the safety of our volunteers, 4-H families, the youth we work with.”

Extension agents consulted with county health officials before making the decision.

4-Hers will still compete, however. They can submit project videos online thorough a website called Flipgrid. Those videos allow judges to review 4-H projects and award ribbons and awards.

“Every 4-H project will have a way to submit videos to be judged,” Pitts told The Kansan. “... Social media is a wonderful tool. It can help bring people together that don’t even live in or near Newton. We will be posting projects and videos to our Harvey County Extension Facebook page to showcase all the hard work 4-Hers have done. We will also do a showcase of our overall winners after Fair with a Zoom/Facebook Live event. All of these can be shared by families to show their friends and families how well their 4-Hers did and all the work they put into their project.”

“The county fair is an opportunity for youth to showcase what they have learned throughout the 4-H year,” said Beth Hinshaw, a 4-H youth development specialist in the southeast region.

She notes that Kansas 4-H members participate in more than 30 project areas each year, all providing an opportunity to explore an area of interest. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, those projects have not stopped; youths continue to feed and care for livestock and continue to pursue their interest in such areas as photography, foods and nutrition, clothing, fiber arts, rocketry and more.

“In some cases, young people had more time to work on their projects this year,” Hinshaw said. “And they’ve still had caring mentors, project and club leaders who are urging them forward and challenging them to learn new things.”

But the method by which they’ll be able to show the fruits of their labor is mixed across Kansas. With county fair season underway, local boards have opted for varying degrees of in-person and online fairs.

“This year is different,” Hinshaw said. “I think it’s really important that if you are typically a fair-goer that you check in about your county fair: Are they having the same hours this year? Are they having the same exhibits this year? Are they open to the public and when are they open? Or can you catch a show or a recap online?”

For Harvey County, there will be no 4-H exhibits or livestock shows held at the fairgrounds — though they will still happen in a different way.

“The method will look different and will not be perfect, but the safety of our 4-Hers and their families is our number one priority. We will still be showcasing our 4-Her’s hard work this year, just in a new format. We appreciate all the patience and understanding that 4-Hers and their families have shown, along with the community.”

At this time the Rodeo and Demolition Derby are still on as those events are not planned by the county extension office or 4-H. According to the fair website, the Harvey County Fair Board intends to host a fair as long as there are no crowd size restrictions in effect for Harvey County.

There will be no open class exhibits, no pedal pull, ATV Rodeo and no tug of war at the fair this year. Still planned are a parade and the Fair Market in the Park, carnival, mud volleyball and food trucks/commercial booths.