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‘Exciting possibilities’ Barton County Fair Board sees for 2020
bunny judge
In this Tribune file photo from the 2019 Barton County Fair, Amber Ochs, then age 7, from great Bend City Slickers 4-H Club practices showing a rabbit to a judge. The 2020 fair will feature limited face-to-face events for 4-H livestock entries only this year, as the Barton County Fair Board works to provide the best and safest fair possible this year.

The Barton County Fair Board announced Friday that it will host the 29th annual fair, to be held July 8-12.  Unlike recent years, the 2020 fair will have a completely different look, board member Charles Atkinson said.  That’s because this year, the plan is to have very limited face-to-face events and move to a virtual platform.  With restrictions in place, they will host livestock shows for 4-H participants to give them an opportunity to show their animals and interact with the judge, but there will be no Open Class livestock shows. 

“Providing quality educational and entertainment opportunities for our local communities continues to be our priority,” the Fair Board release stated.  “As we head into fair season, due to coronavirus (COVID-19) the Barton County Fair believes in providing a safe environment for all attendees and staff and are working very hard to keep the public’s health as a priority when planning these events.  The decision to carry on with a county fair was not an easy decision, and safety of our volunteers, participants, and spectators have been given primary consideration.”  

Other fair programs will take place on a virtual platform which will consist of a website, Facebook and Facebook Live events, and the board is working closely with K-State Extension agents and volunteers now to adopt the same platform, Flipgrid, that 4-H is using for their non-livestock project entries. 

flipgrid with beran
Cottonwood Extension District 4-H Agent Michelle Beran demonstrated how the program Flipgrid can be used by 4-Hers to package and present projects for the 2020 Barton County Fair. Non-livestock related projects will be presented virtually this year, while livestock projects will be presented in person in a socially distanced setting.
Program preferred by Extension will be used

Early in March, Kansas State University leadership announced all Extension face-to-face activities would be halted until July 4 in response to the coronavirus concern.  So, from the beginning, Cottonwood Extension District 4-H Agent Michelle Beran knew that some fair projects, like Needle Arts, were going to need to be shared virtually.  

She joined a group of Extension agents from around the state and began examining the available programs and decided on Flipgrid because it is easy to use and easy to learn. The program is designed with school-aged students in mind, Beran said. The free program is available to use on a phone or a laptop. Users  record a video on their smartphone, with a laptop or tablet, or upload it from their video recording device.  They can also provide written information, and present it as a complete package for judges to view.  The judge can then respond in kind with a short video and some written feedback, as well as a score for the project.  

A big plus in Beran’s eyes is the projects can be judged as soon as they are uploaded.  That alleviates the stress on judges and participants.  There’s a lot of planning and logistics that goes into arranging for a space and scheduling an all-day judging event in a normal year. Judges arrange to travel, taking time off work in many cases.  Families struggle, transporting projects, waiting for their opportunity to meet with a judge, and sometimes with multiple kids, it’s hard to make every event because conflicts invariably arise.  This year, Beran expects there will be just as many 4-H participants, but perhaps fewer entries overall as everyone takes time to get familiar with the technology. 

“While showing at the fair is nice, the goal of 4-H is to showcase a year’s worth of project learning and build communication skills,” Beran said.  Another plus about the program, videos can be made public with participants’ permission. This opens up the possibility of sharing on the Fair’s Facebook page during the fair.  

 Judges training on Flipgrid will begin next week.

While Flipgrid will come into play for all of the static projects that are typically considered “inside” exhibits,like Needle Arts, Foods, Photography, Arts and Crafts, Woodworking, etc., some projects will not be included this year, like the group banner project.  Also, for some projects that allow for a notebook, this year they will not be required or included in the entry. 

“We could not figure out how you were going to show what is in your notebook unless you video page after page, so we just removed them,” she said.  

4-H livestock show

Livestock exhibits will also be different this year, Beran said.  The most noticeable change is there will not be any stalling of animals in Expo 3.  Instead, animals will be stalled in their own trailers.  In addition, only one type of animal will be shown at a time.  That means on one day, the focus will be cattle, another day swine, and so forth.  This will facilitate shorter periods of time for animals to stay on site.  

Only judges, participants and their immediate family and Fair Board members will be allowed in Expo 3 during the show.  The decision was necessary because of the cleaning necessary between each show class.  Extended family and friends will be able to tune in and watch the proceedings of the show live on Facebook, Beran said.   

One other big difference this year is there will not be a 4-H barbecue this year.  

“I have to have all those families in proximity to prep and pack and everything else and the safety of my 4-H families has to be my top priority and so because of that,” Beran said. 

The dinner is a major fundraiser for 4-H, so a lot of consideration is being put into postponing it until later in the year, possible at the beginning of the school year when 4-H holds its annual Discover 4-H events.  Details are still being worked out, but Beran is hopeful it will be well attended. 

“One of the Fair Board members said recently, “We need to be excited about what we can do, not sad or frustrated about what we can’t,” and I agree,” Beran said.  

Many unknowns

Fair Board members, all volunteers, are spending their spare time working on creating and a plan for rolling out the 2020 Fair website and features for the Facebook page, Atkinson said. The 2020 Fair Book will be a completely online publication this year, but brochures for schedules and promotions are also in the works. Time, he said, is the biggest issue.  Normally, it takes months to organize and present the fair.  Now, they have only six weeks to get everything worked out.  

Fortunately, they have a lot of help with board members, present and past, as well as office help and Friends of the Fair volunteers working on it together.  The public will be able to monitor their progress at the Barton County Fair Facebook page, and they will continue to share updates as the project progresses, Atkinson said.  

Two of the highlights that draw many to the fair every year are the amusements and the concerts.  Last year, the Fair nearly didn’t have a carnival, until a Marceline, Mo., based carnival company, Toby’s Carnival, stepped up and agreed to come.  They contracted with the board to return this year.  They have not yet determined if they will make the trip, Atkinson said.  A hometown event in early July is planned, and it may be as late as then before the BCFB knows one way or another what the company will do.  

Meanwhile, there will be no vendors of any kind at the fairgrounds, he said.  Entertainment will be virtual, provided by local entertainers.  A lineup will be announced in the weeks to come.

“This is going to be a great chance to showcase our local talent,” Atkinson said.  “We’re really excited about the possibilities.”