by ALEXANDRA RETTER
It’s an opportunity to grab a favorite bite from a food truck and maybe try something new. It’s also a chance to get an adrenaline rush on a ride and see the hard work that has gone into 4-H projects. This year, summer will be different without the Winona County Fair.
Winona County Fair Board President Cindy Timm said the Winona County Fair Board is sad and disappointed about having to cancel this year’s fair because of the pandemic. “All in all, I want to emphasize, this was not a decision the fair board wanted to make,” Timm shared.
Timm said the safety of those connected with the fair, such as volunteers and judges, was a consideration amid the pandemic. “It was also a situation that you had to be concerned about public safety, too,” Timm stated.
The fair board said in a May 26 statement announcing the cancellation of the fair that they had read the Minnesota Stay Safe Plan recently issued by Governor Tim Walz as well, and they recognized that large public gatherings would likely not be allowed in time for the opening of this year’s fair.
Timm said she acknowledges that the cancellation of the fair and the cancellation of other fairs in the state has an impact financially on those involved with fairs, from food vendors to those who are part of carnivals.
“Please know the fair board realizes the financial impact this decision has on the many attractions and vendors booked for the 2020 fair, and the disappointment to be felt by the people who enjoy attending the fair,” the fair board said in its statement. “This is, however, the responsible decision to make for the protection of everyone.”
Timm said this year’s cancellation is not the first time the fair has not been held. The fair was also cancelled in 1946 during an outbreak of polio.
Vice President of the Federation Officer Team with 4-H Katie Ketchum had been working on skills in the dairy area for the fair, including teaching a cow to walk and cooperate with her, as well as helping them get used to soap and water for cleanings and clipping them, or giving them a haircut, a few times. Although the fair has been cancelled, she will keep up with her skills, she said. “I have been doing things just like a normal year,” Ketchum said. “I’m still trying to continue the same things I’ve been doing. I’m also trying to take this as a learning opportunity, so I’m trying different things and seeing if they’re working, or just getting better at my skills in that project area.”
She said she will continue working on clipping skills and experimenting with how her animal is fed to help them feel their best.
Extension Educator for 4-H Youth Development in Winona County Kimberly Stehr said the group is in support of the fair board’s decision to cancel this year’s fair and aims to provide other ways this summer for those in 4-H to demonstrate what they have learned. “We are committed to serving youth in our community,” she said.
Learning opportunities are available at z.umn.edu/4HAtHome, and Regional 4-H Camp in a Box is being offered for a camp experience at home at z.umn.edu/SERegionalCampinaBoxInfo.
Since making the decision to cancel this year’s fair, fair staff members have been busy contacting those associated with the fair, including people connected with the fair’s carnival and individuals involved with the fair’s petting zoo, as well as judges, volunteers and sponsors, Timm noted.
Timm shared that a good number of sponsors they have contacted wish for their sponsorship donations to be put toward maintenance of the fairgrounds this summer, from lawn mowing to electricity costs.
Work to be done around the fairgrounds includes planting new flowers and sprucing up the grand stand railing, Timm said.
The fair board will soon start considering plans for next year’s fair, Timm stated. She added that some acts which had been planned for this year’s fair, such as a robotic puppets show, will now be part of next year’s fair.
The next Winona County Fair is scheduled for July 7-11, 2021.