NIOBRARA COUNTY – While the Niobrara County Extension Office was given the go-ahead to continue with county fair preparations, the annual event will not go on without modifications to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
Niobrara County Extension Administrative Assistant and Fair Manager Erin Smith said there will be hand sanitizers stations positioned throughout the fairgrounds, and guests will be encouraged to maintain social distancing between one another.
“We hope everyone can come out and enjoy the fair and some normalcy this summer,” Smith said. “I think that’s what everyone is really craving.”
One of the most significant changes, Smith said, was the decision to forgo printing a fairbook this year. A virtual copy is available online and there are copies at the Niobrara Senior Center, Niobrara County Chamber of Commerce and Lickety Stitch Quilts and Lusk for those who want to look at a fairbook when they register.
Smith said they decided against a mass-printing due to all of the unknowns surrounding the novel coronavirus pandemic.
“We just figured 250 fair books was a cost if we were to have to cancel [the fair] at the last minute,” Smith said.
Families are also encouraged to enter for Fair online, using the program Fair Entry, according to Smith. Staff at the Niobrara County Extension are willing to help those who come into the office with online entries as well.
“Hopefully, it decreases [entrants] writing it on paper and it coming here and one of us having to put it onto the computer,” Smith said.
Among other changes are the move of the 7 p.m. Style Review on Mon, July 27 from indoors to the grandstand outdoors, allowing attendees to space themselves out.
So far, entries for both open class and 4H exhibits are down, Smith said, but she expects more will register in the coming days, as the office accepts late entries until July 28.
It’s hard to tell whether or not Fair will see an increase or decrease in attendance from last year, but the Legends of Rawhide was well-attended, according to Smith, so she hopes this annual event will see a similar turnout.
“The fairgrounds has been with sometimes four to six events per day, and we really missed that level of activity this summer, seeing everybody and seeing the 4H kids,” Smith said. “We’re definitely ready to see everyone.”