I have watched and listened to the comments since the cancellation of the Robeson Regional Agricultural Fair. Most people, while disappointed, understand that the reason for the fair’s cancellation was in the best interests of public safety. Others, let’s just say, are not so understanding. Also, keep in mind that after this decision was made, the salon lost a valued member of its board to COVID-19 and another was hospitalized. This unfortunately reinforces the need for their decision. However, that is not to say that there are no questions regarding 4-H breeding exposures. Here are some answers to the questions that have been circulated.
Are all fair contests canceled? Almost. The FFA is still working on traction planning for student trucks and tractors and 4-H is working on the breeding shows. Young people from the FFA and 4-H come from all over the state to participate in these shows. For some young people, they are part of a staging circuit where they have to participate in a number of shows to earn points, which translate into rewards. Fortunately, the sponsors of the breeding shows have agreed to keep their funds in place so that we can offer bonuses for the shows. Needless to say, it’s more fun when there is a fair, and young people like to take some of their bounty and spend it halfway. What will change is that the cattle shows will not be held at the fairgrounds. Since the fair has closed, we will be holding the shows in another location, so there will be no competitions at the fairgrounds.
If the fair is canceled due to COVID-19, how safe do you think the youth screening will be? There is a 4-H state policy regarding COVID-19 protocols, which we will be monitoring closely. One of the things we will do is require everyone to show up and everyone in the building to wear a mask. We will also do our best to socially distance ourselves in the ring (sometimes large animals can change the best plan). Those who show are also aware that if they are not doing well they should stay home. This is something they have been doing for months with all 4-H programs and for most of our 4-H families it is our current normal. If the fair were to take place, the public would come in and out of the building (there are often a lot of people) and, if we’re being honest, it would be difficult at best to impose masks on the public passing through the barn. This makes it easier for us to practice and manage security protocols when there are fewer people in the building. As for the spectators, we do not expect the general public, just the families of the spectators. Fewer people, fewer transmission possibilities.
Why is it so important to have these shows? Robeson County 4-H members spent nearly six months raising, caring for and working with these animals for the show. Not only have they been looking forward to this, but 4-H are committed to doing whatever we can safely in person. Often times with animal science projects people assume that animals are the project. In reality, it is young people who show what they have learned, communicate the responsibilities they have taken on and have the opportunity to learn by doing. These shows are making a huge difference in the lives of our young people.
So, although the fair is canceled, remember that the main reason for our fair is the celebration and the opportunity for agricultural education. It’s just a little different this year.
Shea Ann DeJarnette is a 4-H Youth Development with North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Robeson County Center. She can be reached at 910-671-3276, by email at [email protected], or online at http://robeson.ces.ncsu.edu/.