LUMBERTON — The cancellation of the Robeson County Regional Agricultural Fair will cause another financial hit to Robeson County, fair President Allen Faircloth said Wednesday.
The fair board voted Tuesday during a special called meeting to cancel the annual event that was entering its 74th year. The fair was scheduled to run Oct. 2-10 at the Robeson County fairgrounds, located at 3750 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive in Lumberton.
The local decision followed the cancellation of the North Carolina State Fair and fairs in Cumberland and Columbus counties.
“We’re really disappointed,” Faircloth said. “It’s not a money issue, it’s a safety issue.”
However, Faircloth is most disappointed in how much money the county will lose as a result of the cancellation.
“We’re a nonprofit organization,” Faircloth said. “All the money the fair earns goes back into the community.”
The fair typically places at least $100,000 back into the county each year.
Faircloth said $40,000 is spent each year for hiring police services and $12,000 for parking services. This doesn’t include other services paid for by the fair each year to keep it running.
“We normally, as a generally rule, donate $10,000 each year to local nonprofits,” he said.
Among the organizations receiving money from the fair are United Way of Robeson County, Robeson County Church and Community Center, Southeastern Family and Violence Center, and the Red Cross.
The fair also is used as of backdrop for many local churches and programs to make money.
“So many agencies use the fair as their sole fundraisers,” Faircloth said.
The fair president said the board will still look at its funds to see what can be done to continue giving back to the community.
“We’ll certainly try to do the charitable thing we’ve been doing,” he said. “We’ll need to check our finances and see. All that we can do, we will.”
Although the fair will not return until 2021, livestock shows are now underway, but virtually. The fair board made the decision early because of the size and scope of the shows.
“We made the decision to do that virtually before the fair closed due to the number of folks that are inherent to these events,” said Shea DeJarnette, a fair board member.
The goat shows generally attract 80 to 100 young people, with almost 200 goats, she said.
Larger animals — goats, lambs, heifers and steers — are part of a showmanship circuit. There will be essentially five shows for the youth to see their improvement from beginning to end.
“These shows started last week and will run through the first weekend of October. There is no public viewing of these shows for a variety of reasons,” DeJarnette said.
With the larger animals, the youth will get a prompt of what they need to do for their video, DeJarnette said. They will then shoot a video of them walking in a circle to highlight their animals, just like they would do at the in-person show, and then answer the prompt on camera.
“It might be something about the breed of the animal, anatomy, feed rations and the list goes on,” DeJarnette said. “The showman will answer the question prompt and send in their video.”
The videos will be separated by age division — 5-7, 8-10, 11-13, 14-18 — and sent to the judge who will determine placings.
The poultry and rabbit shows also will be conducted via videos that are due about the time the fair would have started in October.
These shows will be similar to the large-animal shows but smaller because other counties generally do not participate, DeJarnette said.
“I will create a similar process for these youth so we can do a similar judging of their showmanship skills and knowledge,” she said.
For the poultry and rabbit shows organizers may set up a Zoom session so the youth can talk to the judge and the judge can ask them questions, just like a typical show.
“That way they can work on their verbal communication skills, continue to forge those adult/youth partnerships, and utilize their critical thinking skills, which have to be on point when you are talking to a judge and have to give them an instantaneous answer,” DeJarnette said.
The fair is familiar with the virtual aspect because of the Avian influenza, which struck about five years ago.
“We could have youth in the building and not poultry, so we created a virtual poultry show way back then,” DeJarnette said.