It was announced last week that the 2020 Indiana State Fair would not be held. What led to the decision and what does it mean for Indiana 4-H youth?
For the past 2 months, the Indiana State Fair board has been wrestling with how to hold a fair in the era of COVID-19. Fair Executive Director Cindy Hoye said they had a plan they thought would work, but then things started to unravel.
“Many of our partners and companies started telling us they would not be able to participate in the fair in the way they always have. The Hot Air Balloon liftoff would not happen; the High School Marching Band Competition would not happen. There was concern the at-risk older volunteers at Pioneer Village would not be able to come.”
In the end, Hoye said it came down to the total fair experience.
“We did not want to offer a half a fair. If we could not deliver the whole fair with all the things people love and expect, then we had no choice but to not hold the fair.”
Fair Board Director and Miami County Pork producer Jeanette Merritt told HAT it was a very difficult decision. But, in the end one, she feels it was the right choice.
“I am a huge supporter of the fair and of 4-H, and I am really sad the fair will not take place in 2020.”
While the fair will not happen in a traditional sense, there will be 4-H competitions with animals in the barns.
“This is our core mission: to showcase agriculture and support 4-H youth. We will give 4-H youth the chance to show their animals and that means everything: Cattle, hogs, goats, llamas rabbits, poultry, even dogs and cats,” stated Hoye.
Static exhibits and fashion review and public speaking competition will also be held virtually.
Merritt noted that with many county fairs not having animal competitions, this may be the only chance for some 4-Hers to show off their hard work.
“With so many students not in school, those livestock got a lot of extra work,” she stated.
More details on how this program is going to work will be forthcoming in the weeks ahead.
Hoye told HAT this is not the first time the fair has been halted. She is optimistic the 2021 Fair will be back and be better than ever.
“I think there will be a real pent up demand for all the fair activities and fair food in 2021.”
During the Civil War and WWII, the Fairgrounds was needed to support the war effort.
Hoye said “We are grateful for the support of our State Fair Family, each one of you who makes the iconic event possible every summer. To our beloved fans, staff, sponsors, exhibitors, 4-H & FFA members, vendors, volunteers and entertainers – we look forward to being back at full strength in August 2021.”