“We’ve always had good support, but this past summer the support was overwhelming,” Kelly Vincelette, Extension Educator, 4-H Youth Development, for Dodge County.
When the pandemic hit a year ago, at first no one thought it would mean the cancellation of the county fair. Especially not those students in 4-H who were already raising their livestock and preparing their projects to show at the annual event. But as the weeks progressed, it became evident that events with that many people involved could not be held without causing speedy spreading of the COVID 19 virus.
4-H leaders put their heads together and discussed holding showcasing events where students could still trailer in their animals and take their projects to be judged in person to buildings with only a few people in attendance. Everyone would be safely socially distanced and masked.
“People cared so much that our youth had something to look forward to; that they had some form of normal. It wasn’t completely normal but there was some little bit of normal,” quipped Kelly.
“Our 4-H showcasing events last summer showed clearly how strong our community is,” she said.
The idea would require a lot of work, but immediately, members of the County Fair Board stepped up and offered to help in any way they could.
The events were held during the scheduled fair week. The County Fairgrounds in Kasson were closed off to the public so the 4-H organization could track everyone that came in to keep safety protocols in place.
Fair Board members made sure the dates were reserved, many board members helped with the parking requirements, and communications flowed freely.
They were some of the countless volunteers who shepherded the contestants and judges through the proper routes to the correct spaces for judging and then saw them on their way. Volunteers also sanitized high touch areas and made sure masking and social distancing were the rules of the day. Volunteers made sure vehicles weren’t parked too close together which helped ensure all proper safety protocols were followed that had been set in place by the University of Minnesota and the 4-H Youth Development Program.
Other county officials helped also including the County Commissioners, County Facilities and Fleet Manager Duke Harbaugh and other County Maintenance staff, Dodge and Steele County Public Health Director Amy Caron, Sheriff Scott Rose, and members of the Sheriff’s Posse.
“We think our county had one of the very best showcases in the state because our community cares so much, and the youth in our County greatly appreciated everyone’s efforts” said Kelly.
Kelly said that her Regional Director commented that, based on what she has seen come out of Dodge County, “…our community really comes together. It really showed, especially this year, how strong our community is. We’ve always had good support, but this past summer the support was overwhelming.”
Normally, an awards banquet is held in November to give out the awards and highlight 4-H members’ achievements throughout the past year of 4-H participation. That had to be changed also. In 2020, participants drove a set route and received their award while in their vehicles. Masked officials handed them their awards along with a goodie bag. As they drove through, there were sandwich boards with encouraging words set up along the way.
The 4-H youth leadership committee voted to give the “Friend of 4-H” award to the Fair Board in 2020.
“Business, individuals and volunteers in our county are one-of-a-kind and we are truly lucky to live and work here. Even in a pandemic everyone comes together and supports the youth, showing just how truly strong our community is together. I know that the 4-H youth were very appreciative of everyone that has helped the 4-H program over the years in any way, especially this year as we were able to safely host our youth showcasing events this past summer,” concluded Kelly.