Board working on "modified" approach for 4-H'ers

BICKNELL — Due to the uncertainty in regards to public gatherings as the community looks to navigate its way out of COVID-19 restrictions, members of the Knox County Fair Board have opted not to have a public event this year.

The fair, originally set to be held the week of July 19, comes after Gov. Eric Holcomb’s goal to see a full reopening of Indiana’s economy by the Fourth of July.

But that opening would only be possible if hospitalizations associated with the coronavirus continued to drop and widespread testing remained available, among other criteria.

The governor has warned that falling back into previous phases of his 5-stage back-on-track plan are definitely possible if cases of COVID-19 surge again.

Fair board president Rob Marchino says they just couldn't afford to take a wait-and-see approach.

“The fair isn’t something you can just throw together in a week’s time,” he said. “So at the stage of the game we’re at right now, we would be making a tremendous financial and manpower commitment.

“We just didn’t see it feasible at this time,” Marchino said. “But we still want to try to do the best we can to provide for our 4-H members.”

While plans continue to evolve, Marchino said the board will move ahead with a “modified fair” for youngsters and their immediate families.

There will be livestock shows, he said, but they will be operating on a “show and go” format.

“There will be no overnight animal stays,” Marchino said. “Once you come and show, you leave.

“But we do want to provide a place, a location that is as normal as possible, for them to be able to show off their 4-H projects.”

Marchino, too, said 4-H members will likely be limited to just 2-3 guests during their respective livestock shows.

Building 4-H exhibits — everything from homemade jam to photography — will likely continue as well, Marchino said, but in a limited capacity.

Four-H'ers will be encouraged to bring their submissions to the fairgrounds the week before the fair, likely at staggered times so as to limit the number of people on the grounds at one time.

“They’ll be checking their projects in, dropping them off,” Marchino said. “Someone else will be carrying them in to set up in the building.

“And a day or two later, we’ll have judges, again staggered, come in throughout the day to do the judging.”

Marchino added that it’s still possible those 4-H exhibits could be open to the public, but those details will be decided later.

“That part is still a work in progress,” he said, “That is a big gray area right now.”

And all of this, Marchino said, is being developed into a specific plan that has to be submitted to Purdue University for approval by June 25.

Should that plan be approved, they’ll still have a fair, Marchino said, just one catered to the kids only.

“What we’re doing we’re doing mainly for our 4-H members,” he said. “There will be no carnival, no grandstand events. I’m sorry to say there will be no food booths, no sponsors or businesses set up out in the midway.”

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