“The fair exists for those kids and for them to be able to show their livestock and exhibits,” said Natalie Bartholomew, secretary for the Fair’s Board of Directors. “They’ve been home during this and had time to work on it.”
The annual fair pageant, Midway with rides and numerous food vendors have been canceled for 2020. In addition, the horticulture building will not be open with exhibits.
Bartholomew said the Fair Board submitted a plan to the Arkansas Department of Health on how it could sponsor the junior livestock show, home economic exhibitions and livestock premium sale following covid-19 safety restrictions and guidelines, and the health department approved the proposal.
Children and youth submitting home economic entries will drop those off at Thompson Hall for judging and then pick them up later. None of the entries will be out on display since the fair is closed to the public. Participants are limited to 40 entries.
Several categories will not be available this year and those include table settings, educational booths, baked goods, and hobby and collections.
Youth will start bringing in their livestock to the county fairgrounds on Saturday, Aug. 22, with scheduled times depending on the type of livestock. Livestock check-ins will continue through Wednesday.
In many cases, livestock will go straight from the trailer to the judging ring and then back to the trailer afterward to limit the number of people on site. Inside the barns, every other stall will be used to provide physical distancing between those showing livestock.
Spectators will be limited and the stands will be marked off to provide space between those parents or other family members watching the shows.
Robin Harlow, who is a Fair Board member and also chairwoman of the Premium Sale Committee, said the sale will continue as in past years and be held at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 27, in the livestock arena.
The annual premium sale allows businesses and individuals to bid hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars to support the kids’ livestock projects. These projects make it possible for members of 4-H clubs, FFA, and other agricultural organizations to learn about raising cattle, hogs, sheep and goats and other livestock.
The junior participants in the sale are allowed to keep their animals and use the money to recoup expenses, start all over again for next year’s fair or save the money in a college fund.
For 2019, the premium sale raised $145,000 in three hours for the children and youth involved in the auction. This figure always goes up after the sale because of “add-ons” that come in later. For 2019, 139 animals were “sold.”
There will be several differences this year at the sale because of the pandemic.
Harlow said her mother lives in Oklahoma and has come every year to the premium sale. The problem was to find a way that parents and grandparents could see the livestock auction, she said.
The solution was to have an in-person auction along with a virtual auction. This would provide a way for many others to be able to see the sale live online and for people to bid online who are not comfortable coming to the sale in person, she said.
“We’re trying to open it up and celebrate any way we can,” Harlow said.
In past years, family members, bidders and others coming to the livestock sale would have a sit-down, hot dinner served by the kids. This year, participants will receive a boxed meal, along with a bottle of water.
In addition, masks and social distancing will be required for all those involved in the sale and those sitting in the stands.
Another change is the way children and youth will thank those who bid on their animals at the premium sale. This year, hugs and handshakes will turn into high-five waves. In many cases, children or youth provide thank-you baskets to their bidders. This will be able to continue this year, Harlow said.
“These kids have put all this work, money and effort into their projects. It’s heartfelt. We want to make everything as much normalcy as we can,” Harlow said.