Adams County Fairfest 2020 is being postponed and merged with next year’s fair, but work continues to be done to allow in-person livestock shows.
Members of the Adams County Agricultural Society voted 8-0 during a special meeting Tuesday night to postpone Fairfest until July 14-18, 2021. The term postpone was used for contract purposes.
It was a decision not made lightly and one with much disappointment.
The Adams County Fair has convened every year since 1872 to provide educational displays, showcase exhibitors and provide vendors and sponsors an outlet for their businesses.
With the uncertainty of the COVID-19 situation, hard decisions had to be made to keep the community and fair families safe.
“We’re in a tough position no matter what we do, I feel,” Board President Scott Schneider said during Tuesday’s meeting.
He said postponing Fairfest was the hardest decision the Ag Society Board has had to make, harder even than the decision announced May 18 not to hold the 2020 Nebraska High School Finals Rodeo in June.
“I think that’s what makes it a tougher decision right now,” board member Nate Allen said. “We know things right now that we didn’t know a couple weeks ago. The decision was easier a couple weeks ago because there weren’t a lot of parameters that even allowed us to consider it.”
Fairgrounds Manager Jolene Laux wrote in an emailed response to questions that safety was the top priority.
“No matter the situation, safety is our focus for every event we host,” she wrote. “Next would be economic support from the community. If we didn’t have the generous support from the community, we couldn’t have these successful events. With those two being the key factors to success we felt it was the right decision for the 2020 Fairfest to be postponed.”
Fairgrounds officials are teaming up with the Adams County 4-H Council and University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension in Adams County to work on a plan to allow livestock shows to still occur during the 2020 Fairfest timeframe, following the directed health measures and with the understanding safety is a major priority.
A “show and go” format was discussed during Tuesday’s meeting, in which 4-H participants would bring animals for specific shows and take them home afterward. This would facilitate social distancing and minimize the need for sanitation because the fairgrounds barns would not be used.
Under Phase 2 guidelines only 37 people would be allowed in the livestock show arena.
Static exhibits will be displayed at the Adams County extension office in the former Wallace Elementary at 2975 S. Baltimore Ave.
There will be no open class competition this year.
Ag Society board members received feedback from open class representatives requesting open class not be held because many of the open class volunteers are in the older demographic, especially vulnerable to COVID-19.
Many aspects of Fairfest 2020 will be merged with next year’s fair.
Board members discussed during their Tuesday meeting how to proceed with many of those items. In most cases contracts for this year’s fair will roll over to next year.
Adams County will request the same grandstand acts in 2021.
Tickets already purchased to 2020 grandstand shows will be reimbursed.
Adams County students with perfect attendance during the past school year still will receive a certificate they can redeem at the carnival ticket booth for a free one-day ride wristband. Students are just responsible for keeping track of that certificate to be used during Fairfest 2021.
Even if Adams County wanted to have a carnival, the company that supplies the Fairfest carnival informed fairgrounds officials it would not be coming because so many other Nebraska counties already canceled their fairs and it didn’t make fiscal sense to come to Hastings.
Laux wrote that she and other fairgrounds officials spent countless hours researching different factors and options for the Fairfest decision.
Michele Bever, executive director of the South Heartland District Health Department, attended an Ag Society Board work session on May 21 to provide input to the board on all the health measures and suggestions.
“Ever since COVID-19 started, we have been thinking what will this 2020 Fairfest look like,” she wrote. “I have been involved in many Zoom meetings and webinars through the IAFE (International Association of Fairs and Expositions). I’ve talked to several fairs in Nebraska and surrounding states. Our entertainment agency also led me to some great discussions online with other venues. We discussed different things with our local health department. One of our biggest things that I feel is very important during this time is keeping everyone safe. The directed health measures has played a large part in our decision. Our carnival also was a key piece. They were unable to make it to Nebraska this year due to so many cancellations in Nebraska.”
Fairgrounds officials are asking sponsors for continued support. Laux spent much of her Wednesday calling those sponsors.
She mentioned Livingston Butler Volland Funeral Home as an example.
“They informed me they will be donating all of their sponsorship money and also money from additional tickets they had purchased,” she said. “The donation will go to the fairgrounds to help pay for the Adams County 4-H premiums. They would like to challenge other sponsors to do the same thing and help support the Adams County 4-H youth and all that they’ve accomplished.”
For more information go to www.adamscountyfairgrounds.com, or call 402-462-3247.