Swine judging at the fair

A judge watches 4-H members show their swine entries in the Show Barn on Tuesday at the DeKalb County Free Fall Fair in Auburn. Judging of 4-H livestock continued day and night over the first four days of the annual fair.

WEST LAFAYETTE — If Indiana’s coronavirus reopening plan stays on track, 4-H events can occur in July, Purdue Extension announced Friday.

With county fairs in Noble, LaGrange and Steuben counties on the calendar for mid-July, the ruling out of West Lafayette may be a big tally mark in the “have the fair” column for local groups trying to decide how to proceed.

Purdue is lifting the restriction on face-to-face 4-H events as of June 30. And Indiana’s “Back on Track” reopening plan would allow for the largest gatherings — including fairs — to resume after July 4 if the state continues to hit marks on its reopening plan.

The DeKalb County Free Fall Fair is scheduled for Sept. 28 through Oct. 3 in Auburn. Summer judging of most non-livestock 4-H projects is scheduled for July 18-23.

Local 4-H fair boards, 4-H councils and county Extension educators may continue planning for events through the month of June in alignment with Indiana’s Back on Track plan and in consultation with local health officials.

“Purdue Extension will comply with all federal, state and local regulations and public safety guidelines and will adhere to Purdue University policies for public health and safety,” said Jason Henderson, senior associate dean of the College of Agriculture and director of Purdue Extension. “The Back on Track plan provides guidelines, which will be followed to ensure the safety of our 4-H’ers, families and communities.”

Interested community members should follow local county Extension social media pages to receive the most up-to-date 4-H county fair information, he advised.

Purdue Extension prohibited face-to-face meetings and events through June 30 in response to COVID-19 restrictions. During this time, Extension 4-H educators and 4-H volunteers have offered virtual programming to protect the health and safety of youth and families.

County 4-H fairs may begin July 4, if local health officials confirm the county has reached stage five in the Indiana Back on Track plan. Fairs must adhere to social distancing guidelines, screen employees and volunteers working on behalf of Purdue Extension daily, and follow industry best practices regarding disinfecting high-traffic areas and offering hand sanitizer and cleaning stations to employees and guests.

County 4-H educators have received implementation guidance. The guidance, developed from industry and government best practices, will aid 4-H councils, fair boards, and county educators in planning over the next six weeks. In some cases, 4-H councils and Extension boards may choose to virtualize their fair experience due to financial limitations, availability of personal protective equipment or other locally determined restrictions. Purdue Extension 4-H specialists have developed models for virtual 4-H fairs in preparation that some counties may not be able to adequately follow federal, state and local guidelines.

“We want to make sure we are doing everything possible to protect our 4-H’ers, their families and the community,” said Casey Mull, assistant director of Extension and 4-H youth development program leader. “All 4-H youth who want to exhibit this summer will be able to through virtual or face-to-face mechanisms.”

Purdue Extension staff members work in all 92 Indiana counties providing information in agriculture and natural resources, health and human sciences, community development and 4-H youth development.

Just because 4-H can proceed and fairs potentially could be held doesn’t necessarily mean they will, Purdue said. Local groups will be meeting to determine if and, if so, how, to host events.

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