2020’s modified Great Jones County Fair 4-H and FFA Shows may have presented the Jones County Extension Office with a unique problem, but it’s one that they rose to meet.
“The staff did an excellent job of coming together and really game planning and working through it,” Jones County Extension Director Jennifer Fischer said. “The fact that we got to work so closely with the fair on something like this and how supportive they were, that’s what made it successful.”
From the moment the decision was made to go virtual, with the announcement being made May 24, extension staff began a series of meetings, including with livestock superintendents and Jones County Public Health to come up with a workable solution.
“We had basically a playbook for each of the different shows that showed everything from when they could come on the ground, to when they went through vet check and how they went through vet check and the different sanitation practices for each of those different things, where they needed to park, how many people we could bring in at a different time,” Fischer said.
During that time, communication was made with all of the necessary volunteers and presenters to make sure everybody felt good about the process. The result is that both the volunteers and families felt comfortable with how things were executed. It was a time intensive process, but one that paid dividends, both with the presenters and their families and with the general public. All told, the complete list of a strategies totaled more than 50 pages.
“I feel like from a preparation standpoint, we were ready for a lot of different scenarios,” Fischer said. “Fortunately, we didn’t have to do worst-case scenarios for anything.”
Families also liked being able to take home their entries the same day.
In order to accommodate the public not be able to be in the stands, all of the shows were streamed live on Facebook to rave reviews. Fischer praised Abby Jaeger, who filmed everything as a volunteer and brought all the necessary equipment.
The video allowed the fair to cater to a larger audience than they could fit in the show arenas socially distancing, like with the rabbit show, which topped out at 30 people watching online.
“Just to see that type of experience happen here in Jones County was kind of unique. People across the country could watch the show,” Fischer said.
The utility of such a feed goes beyond even the pandemic, and there are already plans in the works for how it could be able to help the kids, both present and future. The videos have been saved and will be uploaded on YouTube, so kids can watch their performance and see what they could possibly improve on. Fischer said they are also looking at using the videos as teaching tools for kids that might be new to showing.
Discussions are already ongoing for how to improve and expand upon the practice for next year’s fair.
For now, it’s on to the state fair, which will take place over the next three weekends, Aug. 6 to 8, Aug. 13 to 15 and Aug 20 to 22. Projects that qualified in clothing, communication and static exhibits are being uploaded for a virtual competition, in addition to the livestock shows.
For more details on the state fair schedule, go to www.extension.iastate.edu/jones/.