Extension educator praises efforts of Junior Fair Board

By Kyle Shaner - kshaner@sidneydailynews.com

SIDNEY – The Junior Fair shows went smoother than ever at this year’s Shelby County Fair, Extension Educator Cassie Dietrich told the county commissioners Tuesday, although behind the scenes there was a sense of chaos.

“It might have been whackadoodle crazy in the office, but nobody knew so it’s OK,” Dietrich said.

Dietrich praised the work of the Junior Fair Board, which had to adjust to unprecedented challenges because of the COVID-19 pandemic. They endured long days and upheaval to their normal operations but found a way to host their shows.

“I thought given the cards that we were dealt that the events went off pretty well and things went OK,” Dietrich said. “It was a lot of long, long days. A lot of 5 a.m. mornings until midnight, 1 o’clock in the Extension office.”

Dietrich, who is in her fourth year of advising the Junior Fair Board, said the public was very understanding about the changes to the fair necessitated by the pandemic. And she didn’t receive any of the usual complaints about parent misconduct this year.

“For as much drama as there was leading up to it, during fair week it was probably the fair with no drama,” she said.

Another positive development, Dietrich and Commissioner Tony Bornhorst said, was no cases of COVID-19 have been traced back to the fair.

Bornhorst also said he liked the webcasting of shows and thought the online entry system for exhibitors worked well.

“There’s two items already that I think from this fair that are going to be very useful down the road,” he said.

The Junior Fair Board purchased the equipment required for live streaming, Dietrich said, so that will be available for future fairs and other events at the fairgrounds. There also are plans to keep the online entry system, with some adjustments, she said.

Commissioner Bob Guillozet said he liked the online add-on bids for the auctions. Dietrich agreed and said that could be a part of future fairs as well.

Dietrich said things could have been better by spreading some shows across multiple days and allowing Junior Fair Board members to camp at the fairgrounds.

But overall things turned out well and provided some insight for how future fairs could be improved, she said.

“I think we could do some condensing of some shows,” she said. “I think we discovered that some things don’t necessarily need to be there all week long.”

One concern Dietrich does have is that some decisions, not COVID-19 related, were made by one or two individuals without the input of the Junior Fair Board. Shelby County’s Junior Fair Board is one of the most involved in the state, she said, and she doesn’t want that to change.

“It’s very rare how much work that our Junior Fair Board does and how much involvement Junior Fair Board and the Extension have in the Junior Fair and just oversight and leadership in general,” Dietrich said.

“It’s a cherished thing that I want to see stay, and I just hope that moving forward that we can all kind of reach towards that goal of maintaining that.”

Beyond the fair, Agricultural Educator Matt Schmerge reported he received three seed packages from China that were turned in by county residents. One appears to have been an online order that showed up after the order was canceled while the other two are from an unknown origin. It’s not clear what type of seeds the mystery packages contained.

“It sounds like it’s kind of done, over with,” Schmerge said. “So we’re just shipping those to (the Ohio Department of Agriculture). They didn’t receive as many as they thought we were going to in the offices.”

The Shelby County Extension office is being staffed by one or two people per day while the rest of the staff works from home. Anyone who needs to visit the Extension is asked to make an appointment.

Dietrich said The Ohio State University is raising the minimum wage for qualifying staff members to $15 per hour, effective Sept. 1. Two Shelby County Extension employees will receive hourly wage increases of approximately $1.40, costing the Extension about $7,100 a year. Dietrich said the office’s budget should be OK, as long as appropriations stay level.

Anna and Fort Loramie schools requested that Dietrich continue in-person school programming. She has applied for a waiver from Ohio State to offer in-person instruction and anticipates it will be approved.

The World on Wheels project, which is funded by a collaborative grant, will allow the Extension to offer programming targeted at students in kindergarten through fifth grade.

“It’s really about what are the opportunities in Shelby County for me to be a good citizen, to be a leader, to be a good employee, to be a good conservator, an environmentalist and conservator of resources, and where does our food come from,” Dietrich said. “It really is about teaching them about Shelby County and why our county is great to live in and work in and all that kind of stuff.”

Dietrich is planning for next summer’s 4-H camps with the hope they will be able to proceed as normal.

By Kyle Shaner


Reach the writer at kshaner@sidneydailynews.com or 937-538-4824.

Reach the writer at kshaner@sidneydailynews.com or 937-538-4824.