Finding fair alternatives

Douglas County 4-H members continue programming virtually.

Gavryn Fernholz, 15, usually shows dairy and swine at the Douglas County Fair. (Contributed)

The cancellation of the Douglas County Fair will affect more than frustrated fairgoers.

“It’s not a surprise that the fair was canceled, but still a huge disappointment,” 18-year-old 4-H member Riley Fernholz said. “I’ve been showing at the fair since I was a Cloverbud, and I think this will be the first Douglas County Fair that I haven’t attended since I was 3.”

The 4-H Cloverbud Program teaches life skills to kids ages five through seven.

4-H coordinators are working with the Douglas County Fair Board to provide other ways for 4-H members to celebrate their efforts, prepare for upcoming state events and showcase their exhibits, projects and animals, said Jodi Hintzen, Extension educator for 4-H youth development. The targeted dates for replanned fair-related activities are the same as the fair’s original schedule: August 19-22.

Youth have virtual 4-H club meetings and online events. All face-to-face get-togethers have been cancelled through June 30. The at-home options include sessions to view or tasks to complete, such as soil and crop webinars or plastic sculpture challenges.


“Online 4-H is really no different than what we’ve been doing for school,” said Gavryn Fernholz, a 15-year-old 4-H member. “It’s a nice option.”

Hintzen said her office has not heard of any technological issues for members trying to access these online resources.

“Families are adapting, just like everybody is, to our different world, and so we’re really just trying to support them wherever they’re at,” Hintzen said.

Summer 4-H events will still occur, but they will be held on an online platform. The “It’s County Fair Time, Now What?” workshop will be held virtually June 10. Members will also be judged over a Zoom call on Demonstration Day, June 25. Projects may be pre-recorded or presented live, and conference judges will evaluate them. Both events will be livestreamed and recorded so that people can view the programs later.

As a senior entering her final year of 4-H, Riley Fernholz said her summer is ending before it’s even started.

“Every year, I know that when I’m showing my animals, I can look up in the stands and see a dozen faces cheering me on,” she said. “That gets me really choked up to think that last year could be the ending of my Douglas County Fair participation. You become a big family in the barns, and that friendship will be something that I really miss.”

Gavryn and Riley Fernholz said they’re anticipating how the virtual demonstrations will work. They both show dairy and swine, and Riley Fernholz hopes restrictions are lifted enough for a smaller livestock show to be held in August.

“This summer more than any other has the potential to have the greatest amount of learning,” Hintzen said. “How do you adapt to situations? How do you move on from disappointment? How do you face your challenges and still accomplish your goals? Think about all the skills that youth are going to be learning by still continuing to participate in 4-H.”


Riley Fernholz, 18, prepares to show livestock at a previous fair. (Contributed)

Jasmine Johnson joined the Echo Press staff in May 2020 as a general assignment reporter. She grew up in Becker, Minn., and later studied journalism and graphic design at Bethel University in Arden Hills, Minn.
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