County Fair is on but 4-H activities to be limited

Animal showings, auctions will likely be online to comply with UW Extension guidance

At last year's Ozaukee County Fair, Paul Riemer showed off his champion sheep during the livestock auction. Ozaukee Press file photo
By 
DAN BENSON
Ozaukee Press staff

There will be an Ozaukee County Fair this summer, but it won’t be like other fairs in its 161-year history.

The Ozaukee County Agricultural Society, which operates the fair in Cedarburg, last week announced that “after careful and thoughtful deliberation” it will hold the fair this year despite lingering concerns over the coronavirus outbreak.

“The Fair Board recognizes the community’s need for some sense of normalcy in this year that has been so significantly impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. Safety and cleanliness considerations are being included in every aspect of planning,” Fair Board President Mark Larson said in a press release.

One of the key traditions of the fair — 4-H activities — however, will be greatly reduced.

“Our statewide staff and membership groups have been instructed not to hold large events and, likewise, not to participate during large events organized privately,” Matt Calvert, director of Positive Youth Development for University of Wisconsin-Madison Division of Extension, said in a press release.

That means animal showings and auctions will be set up virtually and static displays about 4-H will be set up but not attended.

“Whether individual 4-H members go to a fair or not, they will continue to be fully recognized and supported as 4-H members and no punitive action will be taken,” Calvert said.

Area UW Extension Director Cindy Sarkady did not specify how 4-H participation in the Ozaukee County Fair would be affected, instead referring a reporter to Calvert’s statement.

Linda Szcerbinski, a leader with the Holy Cross 4-H Club, said UW Extension leaders have been communicating “thoroughly” with her and other leaders about the situation.

“They are looking for ways for the kids to participate. It will work in some capacity,” Szcerbinski said.

She expects that projects will be dropped off and judging and interviews will be done remotely.

This will be her daughter Brianna’s last year doing a swine project. 

“It will be different, like everything else. Their education has been different, our social outings are different,” she said.

“But 4-H is also about teaching responsibility and life skills, and isn’t that what this is all about?”

Jay Road Club leader Sandra Hubing called the UW-Extension decision “a real disappointment to all of us. We’re just kind of rolling with it but it’s very frustrating,” she said. “Especially for the kids. This is the build up to the end of their year.” 

State Sen. Duey Stroebel (R-Cedarburg) criticized the UW-Extension decision.

“I am completely baffled and incredibly frustrated at how little sense it makes for UW-Extension to undermine its terrific flagship program, 4-H,” he said in a press release. “In counties across the state, including Ozaukee County, fair boards are putting on county fairs in full compliance and cooperation with local health department officials.”

  The Ozaukee County Fair is scheduled to be held from Wednesday, July 29, through Sunday, Aug. 2.

Many fairs, including the Wisconsin State Fair and the Washington County Fair, have been canceled.

Other fairs still planning to be held include those in Fond du Lac July 16-19 and Sheboygan County Fair over Labor Day weekend.

Larson said the Fair Board is working with the Washington Ozaukee Public Health Department to stage a “modified” fair to reduce the risk of spreading the virus.

Precautions will include limiting the capacity of the fair grounds to allow for social distancing and limiting seating for  grandstand events to 50%.

Other changes include halting alcoholic beverage sales at 10 p.m. and sanitizing picnic tables, benches, bathrooms and other “high-touch” areas.

People at risk, who contracted the disease or are uncomfortable attending are being asked to not attend, Larson said.

Larson said the Fair Board is still waiting to hear from the fair’s amusement ride vendor.

“He is trying to put together a consortium of amusement providers and piece together a route” to serve fairs and other events, Larson said.

National music acts that were scheduled have been postponed until next year but local groups will be on hand, he said.

“As for other vendors, we have almost everybody who would normally come,” he said.

Larson said the reaction to news the fair will be held “has been overwhelmingly favorable.”

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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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