WORTHINGTON — There will be mooing cows, cock-a-doodle-dooing chickens, bleating sheep and goats and snorting pigs, but the audience will be restricted to family only when Nobles County 4-H’ers exhibit their animals in a newly formatted Achievement Days Aug. 3-7 at the fairgrounds in Worthington.

In fact, the grounds will be closed off to everyone except the 4-H exhibitors, their parents or guardians and a bevy of volunteers in order to stay within the 250-person maximum attendance on the grounds at any one time. The format change and attendance rules this year are due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nobles County 4-H Extension Educator Mackenzie Wolf said Achievement Days will begin with judging of non-livestock entries on Aug. 3. Each 4-H’er may bring up to four items for scheduled conference judging that day, and if they have more projects, those will be judged virtually. Virtual judging is already under way for some of the categories, including clothing, foods, performing arts and demonstrations.

For the virtual judging, Wolf said 4-H’ers will take video of themselves answering questions about their project. Judges will then evaluate each of the videos, provide feedback through the online program Flipgrid, and ribbons will be awarded to the 4-H’ers during Achievement Days.

“We worked to create as many projects to be judged in person as we could,” Wolf said.

She said she realizes the virtual judging is not ideal, and not perfect, but it's a way for 4-H members to showcase the projects they’ve worked hard on since last year’s fair.

The new format for 2020 has resulted in some 4-H’ers not exhibiting at all, or planning to exhibit fewer projects than in previous years.

“We are seeing numbers down, but we’re not seeing such a dramatic drop,” Wolf said, adding that the trend appears to be statewide. The University of Minnesota gave all counties the option to either do everything virtual this year, or to have an Achievement Day-style event where 4-H’ers can bring in their livestock and non-livestock projects for judging without being open to the public.

The 4-H’ers will take their projects back home after judging on Aug. 3, and the grounds will be cleaned and organized Tuesday in preparation for three days of livestock shows. The livestock shows are no-fit shows, meaning the animals can be trimmed, shaved or groomed, but there should be no use of show spray adhesives applied to animal hair.

The beef show begins at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, Aug. 5, followed by the dairy show at 3 p.m. Both will be in Olson Arena, with volunteers working to keep the area clean.

Three of the smaller shows will take place Thursday in the arena, starting with rabbits at 9:30 a.m., poultry at noon at goats at 3 p.m. The last of the livestock shows are scheduled on Friday, with the swine show to start at 9 a.m. and the sheep show at 5 p.m.

All livestock exhibitors will keep their animals trailered or near their trailer until they are slated to enter the show arena, and exhibitors will take their animals back home following the show.

Wolf said showmanship classes will be offered for each of the livestock species, but there will be no premier showmanship event this year.

Also missing is the 4-H ribbon auction, inspirational service, fair foods, a carnival and grandstand events.

“Our 2020 Achievement Days is closed to the public, but we do, however, need volunteers,” Wolf said. “We have so many guidelines that we have to follow that we need more volunteers than ever. We need gate attendants, health screeners, cleaning crew to clean between each static exhibitor, (people to) remove garbage and manure, we need a building manager, ring help and judging clerks, judges assistants, trailer parking helpers and attendants at the wash rack to disinfect between participants.

“We need this crew for every single show,” she added.

While older 4-H’ers, their parents, guardians and screened volunteers have been called on to help make Achievement Days possible, Wolf said the event is being opened up to community volunteers with an interest in 4-H youth activities. To volunteer, visit signupgenius.com/go/4090448afa829a5f94-2020 or call the Nobles County 4-H Office at 295-5314.

“4-H is a learn by doing organization and this year is all about learning,” Wolf said. “We want grace during this time. As office staff we are working really hard to provide a great experience for youth. We really need cooperation and excitement, and we will all get through this together.”

The 4-H Regional Dog Show, which normally kicks off fair week in Worthington, will take place Saturday, Aug. 15 at the fairgrounds. That event will also be closed to the public.