Commissioners support plans to proceed with Junior Fair events

By Kyle Shaner - [email protected]

SIDNEY – Most Junior Fair exhibitors still plan to show their animals this summer and will comply with guidelines to do so, Extension Educator Cassie Dietrich told the Shelby County Commissioners Thursday afternoon.

Dietrich and Agricultural Educator Matt Schmerge from Ohio State University Extension-Shelby County met with the commissioners to discuss ideas for the Junior Fair and for reopening the Extension Office. They all agreed on proposals but acknowledged that ultimately decisions will be dictated by The Ohio State University, the Ohio Department of Health and the Shelby County Senior Fair Board.

“I don’t know what this is going to look like yet,” Dietrich said of this year’s Junior Fair activities.

“Things could change by July 26. The guidelines could be different, good or bad.”

The Senior Fair Board announced May 27 the 2020 Shelby County Fair was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic but Junior Fair events would be allowed to proceed during the week the fair was to take place, July 26 through Aug. 1.

Dietrich polled Junior Fair families about proceeding with events this summer and mostly received positive feedback.

“Right now we’re sitting at about 80 percent of our families are saying they’re full go, showing up, showing their animals, will follow the guidelines that they have to,” Dietrich said. “They just want to show; they want to keep this tradition alive and all that kind of stuff.”

Some families did express concerns about the formats of shows, which haven’t been decided, and many said they’d like to camp at the fairgrounds.

The commissioners and Extension officials thought camping could be done safely at the fairgrounds, especially with extra space now available as a result of other fair attractions such as rides being canceled. And with Gov. Mike DeWine allowing campgrounds to open, they thought that would eliminate regulatory hurdles for exhibitors to camp at the fairgrounds.

“Without all the carnival rides and without all the carnival people, you’ve got a lot more room to spread things out,” Commissioner Julie Ehemann said. “So the campers aren’t going to be on top of each other.”

Ehemann advocated for camping as a way to reduce traffic congestion from exhibitors trying to get into and out of the fairgrounds.

“You’ll be able to spread the traffic congestion out a lot more by allowing for camping,” she said. “Otherwise it’s going to be like leaving Country Concert.”

Allowing some camping at the fairgrounds also would benefit exhibitors and their livestock, Dietrich said.

Some animals, such as rabbits, could be brought into the fairgrounds the day of their shows with no issues, she said. But that might not be feasible with others such as pigs, goats and sheep because of the length of shows and the needs of the animals.

“There’s a need, in my opinion, for the safety and welfare of the animals and the kids in the heat of July to have campers where they can go back in between shows and take a break and get out of the heat,” she said.

“That’s what I’m advocating for. What decision is made on June 17 I can’t speak to.”

The Fair Board is scheduled to meet at 7 p.m. June 17 at the fairgrounds to finalize plans for Junior Fair activities. The meeting will be open to the public and will be hosted in an arena or in a barn to allow for proper social distancing.

“I really think it’s workable here,” Commissioner Tony Bornhorst said of Dietrich’s ideas. “It won’t be the same, but it might just work out real well.”

Dietrich and Schmerge told the commissioners they will request an exemption from Ohio State to allow the Shelby County Extension Office to partially reopen. Extension offices throughout the state have been closed due to DeWine’s stay-at-home orders and are scheduled to remain closed through July 6.

“I might feel more like I need to be in the office after that June 17 date once decisions are made about fair,” Dietrich said.

Ohio State has allowed some exemptions to rules that require employees to work virtually – Dietrich has one for her work with Junior Fair and Schmerge has one for crop scouting. It also released guidance on how Extension offices could begin to reopen.

“I don’t think the university is going to let us go everybody back at full-time,” Schmerge said.

Because the Shelby County Extension employees work out of a county owned property, Dietrich and Schmerge wanted the approval of the commissioners to request an exemption.

The commissioners supported the plan and offered help to meet requirements to reopen, stating their main concern was the health and safety of the employees.

“We want you to feel comfortable,” Commissioner Bob Guillozet said. “You’re the ones coming in.”

By Kyle Shaner

[email protected]

Reach the writer at [email protected] or 937-538-4824.

Reach the writer at [email protected] or 937-538-4824.