No State Fair is a blow, but area 4-H'ers still have local competition

No State Fair is a blow, but area 4-H'ers still have local competition

With the cancellation of the state’s largest fair, Holmes County’s youth may not have the Ohio State Fair to look forward to showcase their animals and Life Skill projects, but they will still have the county judging to look forward to.


When the Ohio Expositions Commission announced earlier this summer that it was canceling the 2020 Ohio State Fair, originally scheduled for July 29 through Aug. 9 in Columbus, it left a huge hole in the schedules of many Holmes County 4-H and FFA youth who were either showing animals or working on life skill projects in hopes of working their way to the state fair level.

Members of the commission expressed concern for public health, as well as the financial feasibility of hosting a socially distant fair that would adhere to social distancing protocols and its impact on the long-term viability of the Ohio State Fair.

“After careful thought and deliberation, we have decided to cancel the Ohio State Fair. Knowing how easily the virus spreads in large groups, we believe it is the safest path forward for the health and safety of all Ohioans.” said Andy Doehrel, chair of the Ohio Expositions Commission. “The financial ramifications of hosting a reduced-capacity Fair would be too great, and we need to protect the great Ohio State Fair for future generations.”

“Our first priority is the safety of the hundreds of thousands of people involved in the Ohio State Fair each year. While this is a difficult decision, we feel it is necessary to protect the fairgoers, exhibitors, volunteers, vendors, partners, performers, concessionaires, youth leaders, employees and sponsors,” said Virgil Strickler, general manager of the Ohio Expo Center & State Fair. “I look forward to seeing my fellow Ohioans at the 2021 Ohio State Fair, when it is safer for us to enjoy our favorite traditions together.”

Last year, 934,925 people attended the Ohio State Fair during its 12-day run. These attendees came from each of Ohio’s 88 counties, all 50 states, the District of Columbia, as well as Canada and Mexico.

The Ohio Expositions Commission is focused on developing a strategy to responsibly reopen its year-round facilities when appropriate, and to welcome guests back for the 2021 Ohio State Fair, scheduled for July 28 through August 8 of next year.

However, that doesn’t help quell the disappointment that youth were going through this year in missing the fair, and that included Holmes County, where dozens of teens make the annual trek to Columbus.

“It’s a tough situation and a huge loss for the kids,” said Janessa Hill, Ohio State University Holmes County Extension educator, who works very closely with all of the area youth. “Things will hopefully resume to normal next year, but that doesn’t make this year any easier.”

While many people think about youth showing animal projects at the fair, which is easy to do since the county’s teens have experienced a great deal of success at the state fair level when it comes to showing their animals, Hill said it may be the other end of the spectrum where the biggest loss was felt.

“I think canceling the state fair might have had the biggest impact on our life skill kids,” Hill said. “Our life skills kids do such a wonderful job of working hard on their projects, many of them on multiple projects, and the state fair is the big show for them.”

Hill said the 4-H’ers who are working on life skills projects will have the experience of presenting their work to a local panel for the Holmes County life skills judging, which will at least provide them with an opportunity to garner some awards for their efforts.

She added that she is excited that the Holmes County Junior Fair Stage on the Green king and queen contest and the life skills projects award-winner presentations will take place at this year’s fair in August.

“It’s been a challenging time for all of us, but it is good that we can still maintain some semblance of normalcy with our fair events,” Hill said. “We’ve got outstanding kids in Holmes County who deserved to be recognized for all they have achieved. We may have to do things a little differently at this year’s fair, but the events will go on. We will make sure we take every safety precaution we can to keep everyone safe and healthy.”

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