SIDNEY — Monday kicked off an abnormal, or “odd,” Shelby County Junior Fair pre-judging week for the bare-bones 2020 Shelby County Fair.
This year’s fair will only consist of junior fair activities. Only people associated with the junior fair are permitted on the fairgrounds. Animals and 4-H projects are immediately removed from the fairgrounds after judging.
“Odd and weird” were the commonly used words by many people, Monday, as pre-fair judging in the fairly empty Beige Building moved a slower than normal pace.
Cassie Dietrich, 4-H OSU extension educator, said they worked with the Shelby County Health Department to ensure they were following safety guidelines to protect against spreading COVID-19. Less than 50 people at a time are allowed in the judging building.
“It’s so weird. It’s not the normal hustle and bustle, and not a lot of people, so it just feels a lot slower,” said Dietrich during Monday’s pre-fair judging.
All members of the Junior Fair Board, judges and others with the OSU extension office wore masks. Most everyone in the building wore masks. Hand sanitizer was provided and plenty of distance between judging stations were implemented. Signs encouraging social distancing or information about how to recognize symptoms of the coronavirus were also displayed at the building’s entrance.
Monday’s pre-judging events included the food & nutrition and clothing categories. Thirty-three food and twenty-three clothing 4-H members of various clubs competed for the “Outstanding of the Day” and “Honorable Mention” awards. Several “Nutrition,” “Shirley Johnson” and “Dorothy Dunkin Award”s were also handed out. The coveted “State Fair Qualifier” award was not given out this year due to the Ohio State Fair being cancelled because of COVID-19 safety concerns.
“We don’t have the Ohio State Fair qualification this year, which is normally a huge thing at our pre-fair judging. Normally we have a whole table that is dealing with Ohio State qualifications and packets and making sure they have their tickets and parking — and not having that makes our job easier, but it’s weird,” Dietrich said.
The junior fair also made another huge transition going from the age-old paper method to everything online.
“We made that jump this year, because really, our hand was forced with COVID and the office being closed,” Dietrich said. “Normally people turn papers in. May 15 was our deadline and so people would turn papers in, but our office wasn’t open. And at that time we under the “stay-at-home” orders, so online was our only option to get that information.”
Junior Fair Board President Morgan Meyer said, “It’s different because we don’t have everybody in the waiting area. It’s definitely more quiet.”
This is Meyer’s last fair as an Anna Livestock 4-H club member. She said it is “sad,” given the conditions, but “it is what it is.”
“We changed, that we gave people chunks of time so that we would have three people (coming) in half-hour time periods. So that we knew we would have like six people max that would be here, as far as 4-H members and their parents, go. It was our goal — to do chunks of time, instead of 10-minute intervals.”
Avery Jackson, 13, a seven-year member of Creative Clovers 4-H Club and daughter of Stephanie and Anthony Jackson, of Maplewood, took home the Outstanding of the Day and the Dorothy Dunkin Award for her “Arroz Con Pollo, Guacamole Dip and Gazpacho” in the “Global Gourmet” food category. She also competes in the photography category Tuesday. Last year she took home Outstanding of the Day, Honorable Mention and State Fair Qualifier. At the 2019 Ohio State Fair she won the Clock Trophy.
“I was excited (to win). I really wish we had state fair this year, so I had that option, but that’s OK,” Avery said with a big smile. “It’s definitely weird and kind of makes me sad because I’m used to (being at the fair), but I’m in pre-judging for everything, so I’m not ever really (showing) at the actual fair. I always come before the fair starts. But modeling is during the fair, so that’s when I get to walk around and see the different things. And it sucks, but you have to remember that the pandemic definitely stopped a lot of things. It will prevent from the rise of that stuff, but I really wish we had the fair this year.”
Her 10-year-old sister Hadley Jackson, also a member of Creative Clovers 4-H Club and daughter of Stephanie and Anthony Jackson, took home Honorable Mention for her “Let’s start cooking” dinner meal, in the food category.
“I was definitely nervous and excited too,” Hadley said of presenting and winning her first award ever at the fair.
“I don’t like it,” she added, about the other part of the fair being cancelled. “I definitely don’t like it because there is this one ride that goes way up and it’s always so fun.”
Lydia Poeppelman, 9, member of Merry Mod Makers, and daughter of Jenny and Chris Poeppelman, of Fort Loramie, was shy and nervous of her first time presenting. She entered a pair of teal shorts she made with her mother’s help in the “Sew Fun” clothing category.
“I was nervous but comfortable (presenting),” Lydia said.
She also looks forward to Sunday’s fashion show where she gets to model her shorts.
Ruth Ann Carity, 12, member of Fort Loramie Livestock, and daughter of Marie and Brent Carity, is involved in several junior fair events. Monday she presented an outfit in the “Shopping Savy” clothes category. She also presented in the “Quick Breads” food category and shows pigs next week.
“I felt confident,” Ruth Ann said of presenting Monday, but said she is getting excited about showing her pigs. “I don’t really like (the fair) is cancelled, but I am happy that we will get to be on the goats’ side this year because we will have more space.”
Each 4-H club member who brought a project to the pre-fair judging was awarded a blue ribbon for completing their work. The Junior Fair begins Sunday, July 26.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4823.