PAYETTE COUNTY — While the pandemic has reduced the number of fairs throughout the nation in 2020, it has not reduced the number of those enrolled in Payette County 4-H: There are 328 youth enrolled in 20 clubs in the Payette County 4-H program, according to Marilyn O’Leary, 4-H program coordinator at the University of Idaho’s Payette County Extension office.

She says when it comes to 4-H, things have been done very differently this year.

“We’ve had to adapt on the run, and that is challenging,” she said. “So, it’s just exciting that we are going to be able to have a fair.”

Some events have been canceled, O’Leary said, which includes consumer judging of entries and projects.

“But we just couldn’t plan enough to make that safe,” she said.

However, 4-H members will still be able to participate in a table-setting contest on July 30. It will be closed to the public, O’Leary said, but there will be enough space in the 4-H building to space out the tables for participants, club leaders and judges.

Also this year, animal science lessons were delivered virtually.

“We usually hold a day clinic where they come spend most of the day learning about animal science, but we have adapted and done those via Zoom this year,” O’Leary said.

The youth and leaders have easily adapted, she said, adding that even meetings have been held online.

“It’s been amazing how these kids and even our 4-H leaders [have adapted],” O’Leary said. “I have to give big kudos to them because at first when we suggested Zoom it was ‘Oh, no way.’ Now, we have more leaders attending the meeting.”

She indicated having the online option was already so popular, they are considering doing both in the future: holding in-person meetings when possible, and offering it via Zoom at the same time.

Another change for 4-H members attending the fair this year is the cancelations of face-to-face interviews, which is part of the judging process. However, portfolios will still be judged, but this time by 10 community volunteers from July 22-23. As with the table-setting contest, this will be closed to the public.

Ribbons will also not be passed from hand-to-hand this year. Instead, in keeping in line with minimizing the spread of COVID-19, ribbons will be placed on tables and youth will be asked to pick them up on their way out. In addition, superintendents for animals will have access to sanitizing wipes and cleaner .

“We are trying to coordinate with the fair board and FFA advisers so that the fair is safe for FFA members, 4-H members and the public,” O’Leary said.

As for people considering coming to the fair, she had the following message.

“Just come to the fair and enjoy yourself. Please practice social distancing — stay safe and stay well,” O’Leary said. “We welcome you to come see the exhibits, and we’re going to have a great fair.”

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