Pennsylvania fairs, 4-H continue planning for the summer

A farm show with lights in the evening.
Butler Farm Show (file photo)

In Pennsylvania, while most livestock shows and sales were canceled last year, enrollment was just slightly lower than a typical year, said Joshua Rice, assistant director for 4-H youth development programs in Pennsylvania, in an email to Farm and Dairy. Most of the decrease is due to less school 4-H programming as schools moved to virtual learning.

4-H clubs in Pennsylvania have been able to meet in person for the past several months, if they follow guidelines and work with their county 4-H educators. The program has approved over 1,000 in person meetings and events so far, Rice said.

A representative from the Pennsylvania State Association of County Fairs told Farm and Dairy the group is working with the department of agriculture and department of health to plan for the 2021 season, but that it is too early to make any further comments until plans are approved by both departments.

Ken Laughlin, president of the board of directors for the Butler Farm Show, said the board is planning on a full farm show this year.

“We have to have contracts and agreements done now for later in the year,” he explained.

But plans could change when state regulations for fairs come out, or depending on what 4-H in the state allows. Right now, outdoor events in Pennsylvania are allowed with 50% of total capacity, but the farm show isn’t until August.

“We’ll adapt as things come closer,” Laughlin said.

The farm show canceled completely in 2020, within a month of the show. Other, non-farm show income on the grounds allows the farm show to survive, but Laughlin said the farm show itself is the big moneymaker. Depending on what the state’s 4-H program allows at that point, he expects to see a typical number of exhibitors.

“They’re itching to get back, too,” Laughlin said.

Rice said when permitted, the 4-H program will begin working with fair boards, FFA chapters, volunteers and others again on livestock shows and sales, but did not speculate as to when that might be.

Pennsylvania 4-H is planning in person day camps over the summer, and will also offer virtual camps and special interest clubs. Last summer, Rice said, virtual programs and club opportunities reached a lot of new, first generation 4-H’ers.

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