On Sunday afternoon, Hamilton County 4-H’ers descended upon the 4-H Fairgrounds, checking in their 4-H exhibits, wearing face coverings and quietly keeping a social distance.?Outside the Fairgrounds Exhibition Center, Kathleen Bohde, the 4-H Youth Development Extension Educator, and Lisa Hanni, Youth Program Assistant, set up a white and 4-H green pop-up tent featuring the 4 H’s in 4-H: Head, Heart, Hands, and Health. They invited 4-H’ers to stop by the tent with any questions about their projects before checking in at the Exhibition Center, O.V. Winks Building and the Annex.?In the Exhibition Center, there was a long line of 4-H’ers carrying their Photography posters displaying their best color or black and white photos. Mini 4-H’ers checked in their Collections, Foods and Horse and Pony projects. In the O.V. Winks Building, 4-H’ers were instructed to place their own 4-H animal project posters on the display boards and leave the opposite door of the building. In the Annex, 4-H’ers brought their Cake Decorating, Electric and Child Development projects and more.
This year’s 4-H Fair, July 16-20, will be a limited in-person 4-H Exhibit because of the COVID-19 pandemic.?Being my daughter is in her sixth year of Hamilton County 4-H, we had already been informed that this year’s 4-H Fair would not happen as we know it. So I asked Bohde to share more about what to expect. Here’s what she said:?
Q: What will the 4-H event look like, visually, this year??
A: The 4-H Exhibit this year is exactly that -- a 4-H Exhibit -- a celebration of the hard work of our youth over the last year. 4-H’ers will be able to show their 4-H animals and exhibit their projects for judging. Some of these activities are taking place virtually, while others will be in person with the appropriate safety measures in place. 4-H’ers will notice more hand-washing stations, sanitation crews and visible guidelines for where they can sit or stand.?
Q: Will there be any points of sale for food? Such as the Junior Leaders Shack or anywhere for 4-H’ers to buy food or water?
A: 4-H’ers are encouraged to pack their lunch if they need to be on the 4-H Fairgrounds for an animal show or an in-person event. We are fortunate to be located close to many restaurants if a 4-H’er and their chaperone need to step away for a break and a snack. As the safety of our 4-H’ers and their helpers is our priority, there will not be food available for sale during the 4-H Exhibit.
Q. What else do we need to know about the limited in-person fair? ?
A: July 16-20 will continue to be the dates for the Hamilton County 4-H Fair. However, some judging events that typically occur during this window may be moved to accommodate social distancing and to spread out 4-H events.
Non-animal project judging will be “closed judging.” 4-H members will not be present during judging.
Livestock shows will be a “show and go” format. Many will show off trailers as pen space will be limited as we observe social distancing. There will be no animals staying overnight.
Audiences will be limited to 4-H members and their families. Streaming of live events will be available.
All 4-H’ers, 4-H volunteers and staff may be required to wear face coverings when engaged in 4-H activities where social distancing is not possible. Contact tracing will also be required to follow the recommendation of the Hamilton County Health Department. There will be face covering expectations and those are continuing to be clarified.
No special events will be held in conjunction with the 4-H exhibits.
Q. How will the “show and go” livestock contests work??
A: All 4-H Animal shows are taking place in a “show and go” format. This means that on the day of the show for that given species, 4-H’ers and their animals will check in a few hours ahead of the show. 4-H’ers have the option to show their animal directly off their trailer, or they can use a pen space. At the conclusion of the show, animals and 4-H’ers will return home that same day so that the Show Arena, pens, and barns can be disinfected before the next event.
Q: What about the llamas, which will be on and off site on the schedule?
A: Llamas adapt a different show style, spreading their classes out over several days. In order to reduce the amount of stress on the animals and 4-H’ers, some llama show classes will be held at the 4-H Llama Co-op Farm.
Q. What kinds of decisions has the 4-H Council made this year in regards to the Fair, due to the pandemic??
A: The Hamilton County 4-H Council’s priority is the health and safety of our youth. The 4-H Council continues to work closely with the Purdue Extension staff to understand the safety guidelines put forth by local officials and Purdue University. Understanding those guidelines, the 4-H Council was able to create this 4-H Exhibit. While they did choose to provide an “in person” option, there is also a virtual option for families who prefer not to exhibit live this year.
Q: Besides the Dog project Obedience and Agility competitions canceled because there wasn’t enough group practice time, what other competitions are canceled this year??
A: The 4-H Aerospace Rocket Launch will not take place, as the 4-H Project volunteers did not feel this could be done successfully while meeting the required safety guidelines. (I am told that the Cats show will take place as well as a virtual Pocket Pets show and a 4-H Agriculture Tractor and Lawn & Garden Tractor Driving Contest.?
Q: How will the 4-H program recognize 10-year-members, scholarship winners, tenure winners??
A: A 4-H 10-Year Member Parade is scheduled for Thursday, July 16. In addition to receiving a commemorative plaque, they also have the opportunity to purchase a yard banner to display. 4-H Seniors are also being recognized through social media, and had an opportunity to participate in the Senior Spotlight posts.?
Q: How will the distribution of ribbons and awards be affected by the pandemic? How will the 2020 queen's role change?
A: Ribbons and awards will still be handed out to 4-H members. 4-H volunteers will work to reduce the amount of “touches.” The 4-H Queen and her court will still participate in the 4-H Exhibit with limited in-person schedules.
Q: How will the Fairgrounds enforce the wearing of facial coverings? Will there be masks available onsite?
A: Face coverings will be required for 4-H’ers and anyone on the 4-H Fairgrounds where a social distance of 6 feet is not possible. Purdue Extension is providing one cloth face covering for each 4-H member and volunteer.
Q: Anything else you want to say?
A: While the necessary safety measures may give the 2020 4-H Exhibit a different look, the core objective of providing an opportunity for youth to showcase their exhibits remains the same. Many thanks go out to our hardworking volunteers and 4-H families for their patience and perseverance as we work together to navigate our new normal.

-Contact Betsy Reason at betsy@thetimes24-7.com. Meet the 2020 Hamilton County 4-H Fair Queen Rachel Read in the Betsy Reason column in an upcoming edition in The Times.