Jensen Comment is an intern in the OSU Extension office in Crook County.
In the wise words of Chris Ledoux, there’s “magic in the air” at the county fair. Growing up, my summers were filled with caramel corn, Saturday night rodeos, and livestock at the fairgrounds. When I first accepted this intern position in early March, I was excited to experience fair from a different perspective and assist in the facilitation of the event. As we all know, over the following weeks life as we knew it began to change. Realistically, I was very dubious of any county in the state successfully pulling off a county fair. While that was a project I had been particularly looking forward to, I was still prepared to work on any other tasks that might come up.
Looking back over the past several months, I can confidently attest to the aptitude and resilience of the Extension staff and faculty in central Oregon. Here in Crook County, the 4-H Program Coordinators and other office staff worked tirelessly to organize a safe and comprehensive county fair. There were countless moments of uncertainty, and the constant nagging knowledge that at any time another COVID-19 mandate could render fair an impossible feat.
One of the first steps towards fair was putting together “COVID kits” for each 4-H club. These contained hand sanitizer, COVID tracking sheets, tape to mark off six-foot increments, and face masks, along with an informational sheet explaining CDC guidelines for the coronavirus. After completing a COVID awareness training, club leaders could pick up these kits and then hold socially-distant club meetings to help everyone prepare for fair.
4-H record-book checks were held via Zoom. Thanks to the help of volunteers from the community, we were able to interview each youth showing at fair and learn a little about their projects. Since the onset of the pandemic, I have continually been blown away by the technology available to us. The communication opportunities offered through Zoom and other software have been hugely helpful, and I can’t imagine getting through this summer without them.
Slowly but surely, everything began to come together. The 2020 Crook County Fair ran August 2-7. The expanded schedule allowed for lowered density and improved social distancing efforts. Over these six days, the youth were able to show their small animals, swine, sheep, goats, and beef. Each show was livestreamed, allowing friends and family to tune in to support the kids. The auction was virtual, displaying a picture of each market animal and allowing buyers to bid in real time. The following week, we had our static competitions and horse fair. Thanks to the efforts of the Extension staff, the fairgrounds board, the sales committee, and many others in the community, our fair was a success.
Working behind the scenes to help make fair happen was an opportunity I won’t soon forget. While the 2020 fair definitely stands apart from years past, we did our best to provide the 4-H and FFA youth with the best possible experience in light of the pandemic. The determination and perseverance I observed in Extension staff was truly inspiring. As I continue on through the upcoming months, I hope to maintain this motivated mindset and provide encouragement for others, as I have been supported during my time in this internship.