The Dawson County Fair Board was the first in the region to announce major changes for its 2020 county fair, but fair officials in other counties know they soon must make similar pandemic-related decisions.
The resolution adopted Monday by the Dawson County Fair Board calls for a limited July 15-19 fair in Lexington that has 4-H and FFA competitive events, but no public participation. The county currently is one of Nebraska’s COVID-19 hot spots.
A press release issued Tuesday said board members worked closely with county agencies, county commissioners and local University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension educators while coming to the decision.
The resolution’s four main guidelines for the 2020 Dawson County Fair are:
- Closed to the public;
- No vendors, entertainment or carnival;
- Hosting only 4-H and FFA competitive events (no open shows);
- Policies for the 4-H Premium Fund will be announced later.
Fair committees will enact the changes. More information will be presented in the next several weeks as protocols are determined with 4-H leaders and the Dawson County Extension Office as sources for that information.
“We each want to thank everyone for your patience and understanding during this uncertain time,” the fair board members said in the press release.
Following are updates on other area fairs (listed chronologically):
Franklin County (July 9-12)
The fair board met Sunday and still plans to move forward with the fair, said Franklin County Fair Manager Melissa Haack of Upland.
“Obviously, things change depending on what comes down from the state,” she said, adding that the board is considering options such as some type of virtual fair or postponing to a later date.
The next board meeting will be June 7.
Gosper County (July 23-25)
The next Gosper County Fair Board meeting is scheduled May 18.
President Michelle Heinemann of Elwood said that in the meantime, discussions are underway with vendors and people involved in the various shows, rodeo and carnival.
“A concern for our fair is it’s a hometown carnival and run by a lot of volunteers, and a lot of them are older,” Heinemann said, adding that if it’s not possible to have a carnival, they at least want to have kids bring their 4-H projects.
“Because these kids have worked so hard on these projects,” she said, “... and the question is can they bring projects to the state fair” if they haven’t exhibited at the county fair?
Sherman County (July 24-29)
Fair Manager Sonny Sekutera of Loup City said the fair board has not met since February, but will do so on June 3.
Meanwhile, all other events scheduled at the fairgrounds have been canceled.
Custer County (July 24-31)
Michelle Nelson of Broken Bow, administrator for the Custer County Fair Board, said the next meeting there is Thursday.
Phelps County (July 25-30)
The next Phelps County Fair Board meeting will be June 2, said board secretary Becky Harris of Loomis.
“It’s a difficult decision this year ... definitely thinking out of the box,” she said.
Harlan County (Aug. 1-6)
Fair board President Jerry Bose of Orleans said the next board meeting is June 18 and he hopes a decision about the 2020 fair will be made then.
Kearney County (Aug. 7-10)
Kearney County Fair Board President Alan Kahle, who also is vice president of the Nebraska Association of Fair Managers, said he hopes his county board can have a face-to-face meeting next week.
“We’re not planning on making a decision until the middle of July,” Kahle said, adding that there are many questions to be answered about hosting a fair, even in late summer.
While many things about county fairs could be back to normal by next year, changes that may linger include difficulty booking a carnival vendor.
Kahle said there are only 150 carnivals left in the United States, compared with 500 a few years ago.
“This deal is gonna bury carnivals,” he said, referring to the pandemic. “If they can’t work, they’re broke.”