Is it fair to cancel the Robeson Regional Agricultural Fair?

Shea Ann DeJarnette Contributing columnist

I’ve been watching and listening to the comments since the Robeson Regional Agricultural Fair was cancelled. Most folks, although disappointed, understand the reason for cancelling the fair was in the best interest of public safety. Others, let’s just say are not as understanding. Also keep in mind, after this decision was made the fair lost a valued member of their board due to COVID-19 and another was hospitalized. This unfortunately reinforces the need for their decision. However, it doesn’t mean there aren’t questions surrounding the 4-H Livestock Shows. Here are few answers to questions that have been circling around.

Are all the fair competitions cancelled? Almost. FFA is still working on planning the student truck and tractor pull and 4-H is working on the Livestock Shows. FFA and 4-H youth come from across the state to take part in these shows. For some of the youth, they are a part of a showmanship circuit where they have to show in a particular number of shows to earn points, which translate to awards. Thankfully, the livestock show sponsors agreed to keep their funds in place so we could offer premiums for the shows. Needless to say, it’s more fun when there is a fair, and the youth enjoy taking some of their premium money and spending it on the midway. What will change is the livestock shows will not be held at the fairgrounds. Since the fair closed we will be holding the shows at an alternate location, so there will be no competitions held at the fairgrounds.

If the fair cancelled due to COVID-19, how do you think the youth showing will be safe? There is a state policy from 4-H concerning COVID-19 protocols, which we will follow closely. One of the things we will be doing is requiring everyone showing and everyone in the building to have on a mask. We will also do our best to socially distance in the show ring (sometimes large animals can change the best made plan). Those showing are also aware if they aren’t well, they need to stay home. This is something they have been doing for months with all 4-H programs and for most of our 4-H families, this is our current normal. If the fair was going on, the public would be in and out of the building (it is often crowded) and, if we are being honest, enforcing masks with the public going through the livestock building would be difficult at best. So, it is easier for us to practice and manage safety protocols when there are fewer folks in the building. In terms of spectators, we do not expect the general public, just the families of those showing. Fewer people, fewer opportunities for transmission.

Why is it so important to have these shows? Robeson County 4-H members have spent almost six months raising, caring, and working with these animals for the show. They have not only been looking forward to this, but 4-H is committed to doing as much as we safely can in person. Often with the animal science projects, folks assume the animals are the project. Really it is the youth demonstrating what they have learned, communicating the responsibilities they have taken on, and having the opportunity to learn by doing. These shows make a huge difference in the lives of our youth.

So although the fair is cancelled, remember the main reason for our fair is the celebration and opportunity for agricultural education. It just looks a little different this year.

Shea Ann DeJarnette is a 4-H Youth Development with North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Robeson County Center. She can be reached at 910-671-3276, by email at [email protected], or online at http://robeson.ces.ncsu.edu/.