KEARNEY — There will be no 2020 Buffalo County Fair.
At their meeting Tuesday, members of the Buffalo County Agricultural Association Fair Board decided to cancel all public events and activities for the July 22-28 fair and have only virtual competitions for 4-H livestock and static exhibits.
“I think we all felt that we’d never get to this point,” fair board Vice President Alan Kegley of Kearney told the Hub this morning. “It’s very hard.”
Buffalo County Fairgrounds Manager Dave Roseberry said the virtual competitions will involve judging of videos made of each 4-H entry. Details of that still are to be determined.
When asked if cancellations of the Heart of America Shows carnival and entertainment events, such as the Diamond Rio concert, have been made, Roseberry replied: “It was just decided at 10:30 last night. All those phone calls will be made today.”
All tickets purchased with credit cards will be refunded back to those accounts. It’s not necessary for ticket holders to contact the fair office.
Roseberry said the board might consider having some type of outdoor fair-familiar event later this year.
In a press release issued this morning, fair board members said: “While this was a difficult decision, the uncertainty of COVID-19 has led us to look at all possible options and we felt it was in the best interest for all involved. It is impossible to predict the scale of this pandemic and our concern is for the health and safety of our community, our attendees, exhibitors, vendors, staff and all those involved with the Buffalo County Fair.”
The board has worked closely with Buffalo County Extension staff and will continue to do so as details for the virtual 4-H shows are determined.
More information will be available at buffalocountyfairgrounds.com and the fairgrounds’ Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Kegley said he’s been going to Buffalo County Fairs since he was a little kid and started as a 4-H exhibitor in 1965. When asked if he’s been to every county fair since then, he replied, “Yup.”
“There are a lot of us (on the board) who came through the 4-H program,” Kegley said, listing Cindy Plautz, Randy Schroer, Ron Loeffelholz, Jeff Richter and Mac Campbell. Others have served on the board for decades and all have been longtime supporters of the Buffalo County Fair.
Two board members were absent from Tuesday’s meeting, but Kegley said those present voted unanimously on the fair decision after “great discussion and agonizing.”
He said the cancellation probably leaves 4-H members few options for market animals being prepped for finish by fair time, but some breeding livestock may go out to pasture.
“You kind of hate for them to go to all that work and then we announce there’s only going to be a virtual fair,” Kegley said, adding that Extension staff felt it was “probably the only thing we could do.”
Roseberry told the Hub last week that many considerations go into such a decision, including uncertainty about the pandemic’s status, testing issues, and decisions by Gov. Pete Ricketts and other state officials related to large group gatherings that are common for fair concerts, livestock shows and carnival rides.
There are safety issues for participants and the many volunteers who make the Buffalo County Fair possible, and the issue of whether the public will feel safe by late July to attend a fair.
“We didn’t feel there was a way to do things as normal and protect everyone because of COVID-19,” Kegley said, using the example of whether fairgoers would trust that a carnival ride is thoroughly wiped down between groups of riders.
“It’s a tough, tough deal,” he added.