WORTHINGTON — The Nobles County Fair Association announced Wednesday the cancellation of the 2020 fair, originally slated for Aug. 5-9, at the fairgrounds in Worthington, but all hope is not lost for the 4-H’ers who exhibit everything from cookies and cows to hogs and vegetables.
Fair Board President Corey Gronewold said talks continue with the 4-H program, and if there’s a way for the kids to bring their animals to the fairgrounds for a one- or two-day show and still abide by state orders and CDC guidelines, there will be every effort to make it happen.
Gronewold said it wasn’t just the safety of fair-goers that weighed on the board’s decision in this time of a global pandemic. On Tuesday, the board was notified by Merriam’s Midway — the carnival it had hired for the third consecutive year — that it was cancelling its 2020 show season due to COVID-19 and would not be coming to Worthington.
“With COVID, the economy was hit hard,” Gronewold added. “We were concerned financially with getting sponsors for the fair.”
Plans were in place to bring a national recording artist to the fair again this year, following the success of the Joe Diffie concert in 2019. Gronewold said the artist — whose name hadn’t yet been revealed — has already been booked to instead come to Worthington for the 2021 Nobles County Fair.
“I think people understand … and expected (the decision) to come,” Gronewold said. “It was just a matter of when it was going to happen.
“We were trying not to pull everything away from these youth who put all their time and effort into these animals — and especially for those in their last year of 4-H,” he added. “We will continue to monitor what happens in the state of Minnesota and see if we can put something together for them.”
Mackenzie Wolf, Nobles County Extension Educator in 4-H Youth Development, said there will be some type of event for 4-H’ers, but just what that is has yet to be determined. The 4-H program operates under the umbrella of the University of Minnesota, which strictly follows the executive orders issued by Gov. Tim Walz, as well as guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control.
Wolf said whatever is planned will need to meet the full compliance of the policies in place.
“Right now I’m keeping in mind a virtual judging experience,” Wolf said. “I’m still encouraging youths to get their projects and animals enrolled online by June 1 because we are going to do something.”
Wolf, herself a former Nobles County 4-H’er, said the cancellation of the fair is deeply disappointing to 4-H members.
“I fully understand the loss and the major hurt these 4-H’ers are going through,” she said, asking the youths in her charge to keep their head up and remain "4-H Strong."
The announcement to cancel the Nobles County Fair came just four days after it was announced the 2020 Minnesota State Fair was cancelled due to COVID-19. The Pipestone County Fair also announced this week that its fair has been cancelled due to economic concerns and the potential for continued restrictions on large gatherings.
The fair board in Cottonwood County will meet Monday night to vote on its 2020 fair, and Rock County fair board members will meet Tuesday to make a decision on its fair. The Murray County Fair Board has a meeting planned June 11.
The Jackson County Fair is still moving forward with its plans to host a fair July 28 through Aug. 1, according to fair board member Terri Bargfrede.
In northwest Iowa, the Osceola County Fair Board is evaluating the situation on a weekly basis, said Vice President Jerry Helmers. As of Friday, it was considering a show-and-go type of event for 4-H and FFA members, with no grandstand events or commercial activities. Helmers said a meeting is planned next week with livestock superintendents to discuss options, but he said things could change based on the governor’s recommendations. The Osceola Fair was scheduled for July 15-19.
The Lyon County Fair Board announced Friday that it has cancelled all non-youth fair activities for 2020 at the fairgrounds in Rock Rapids, with the exception of the races in the grandstand. The commercial building will be closed, and 4-H and FFA livestock shows will be a show-and-go format with the wash rack facilities closed. Static judging will be Iowa State Fair-style with no conference judging taking place.
As of Friday, the Dickinson County Fair in Spirit Lake is planned to go on as scheduled July 17-23.