Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, lots of things were canceled outright this past spring and summer, going into fall. This is not news to anyone.
But it is heartening to families like my own that public health officials, local county fair boards and county 4-H councils, as well as 4-H Extension educators and FFA advisors, worked so hard to make sure than many youth competitions in those crucial rural organizations could still happen, even during a pandemic.
We can’t underestimate the difficulty in planning a 4-H livestock or small animal show under the current situation. The fact that so much attention was given to developing guidelines so these activities could happen this year in many communities across the Great Plains, in spite of the challenges, tells us how important these organizations are to the fabric of our rural being.
While every state has dealt with county and state fairs differently, depending on health conditions on the ground in varied locations, there is no doubt that almost every rural state has tried to offer 4-H and FFA competitions in one form or another.
Although concerts, carnivals, tractor pulls, rodeos and other social entertainment portions of county and state fairs all across the country have been canceled until next summer, the 4-H and FFA shows, in many cases, have gone on in person or virtually.
In our family, the county and state fairs are among the most anticipated events of the year. These are our biggest entertainment events. While 4-H and FFA projects are much more than just exhibits at contests and at fair time, the fair events are the culmination of hours upon hours of dedication.
The fairs are the bows that tie the projects together in the end. With my youngest daughter in her final years of 4-H and FFA, and with so many of her high school senior year activities canceled, the fairs have new meaning and garner new importance in her life as well.
We’ve learned through the ordeals of the past months how much in life we have taken for granted, and how much we cherish our simple liberties. We’ve learned that our social events are so important to our mental health, and that we are not made to be hermits, hunkered down.
When health restrictions finally are lifted, and we can without reservation come together and hug each other again, we will celebrate and appreciate that ability like never before.
This is the reason that our fairs have taken on new importance this year. We truly commend those folks who are making county and state fairs happen safely around the country right now, under tough restrictions and guidelines.