Last month, I wrote about 4-H families being optimistic about future livestock shows being held. That optimism took a little bit of a hit on July 7, when word came out that the State Fair of Texas Board of Directors decided to cancel the fair for 2020. This hasn’t happened since 1945! As a professional who has to consider the health of participants at my programs, I understand the fair’s decision.
The general public might have missed some valuable information in the State Fair of Texas’ statement, but I promise 4-H and FFA families didn’t. State Fair staff are working on a modified livestock show schedule that will provide families with the opportunity to show in a safe environment. While details of the modified schedule are still to come, just knowing that the State Fair is considering this option gives families a glimmer of hope.
A Facebook Live video posted on July 8 provided some communication from fair staff on show changes. As I write this week’s article, the video has 32,000 views and 243 shares on Facebook. Families are interested in their possible participation. Large shows like the State Fair that are held each year are a highlight for families who look forward to the opportunity to compete.
In addition to the fair, school district decisions will greatly affect 4–H members. In Denton County, we have curriculum enrichment in schools, after-school clubs and community clubs. The decisions each district makes regarding opening will have a trickle-down effect on 4-H participation.
Like schools, our office is looking at holding virtual contests and education, outdoor events that allow safety considerations, and anything we can do to provide a safe activity for youth and their families. We know participation in 4-H helps kids develop into adults, and regardless of where we are with COVID-19, we will continue to encourage involvement. The way our contest is held could see some change, but I think giving families opportunities to work together on a common goal is needed now more than ever.
Currently, our state agency of Texas A&M AgriLife Extension is on hold in the second wave of our reopening. We have staff at our offices, but anyone with a potential risk is working from home. Currently, we are only allowed to hold meetings of 10 people or fewer with social distancing practices being observed. We do have the option to submit a preparedness plan to hold a larger program, but many things are being held with some virtual component.