This year’s Wallowa County Fair may look a bit different than past years, but the Aug. 1-8 event is a go and won’t be halted by COVID-19 restrictions, organizers said last week.
“We are pressing ahead and planning on putting on a fair,” County Commissioner Todd Nash said. The county owns the fairgrounds in Enterprise.
“We are definitely a go,” said Brinda Stanley, chairwoman of the fair board. “It may have to look different because Oregon State University Extension has restrictions on the kids meeting.”
Stanley and Nash agreed the fair should have little trouble keeping within restrictions on the size of gatherings.
“We have a pretty small community fair, with mostly residents who come to it,” Nash said, “and we feel pretty comfortable with proceeding.”
Nash is the liaison between the county and the fair board, serves on the board and advocates for the fair at the state level.
“The thing we have going for us is we have a laid-back, small county fair and we keep it local, with no events that draw big crowds such as a carnival,” Stanley said.
She said the board doesn’t keep a head count of how many people attend the fair each year, but she believes most events should be able to remain under the 100-person limit under the state’s Phase 2 restrictions, which became effective Friday, June 5.
One solution being mulled for that is to limit the number of people allowed in the livestock barn for the auction and have it broadcast on TVs set up outside the barn, Stanley said. She said they also will likely divide the auction into different times or days, by species and by the age groups of the kids showing the animals, to further reduce crowd size.
Other elements of the fair also may be held online.
Stephanie Schofield, FFA adviser at Enterprise High School, said about 40 of her 82-member FFA club planned to show livestock at the fair. Chelsea Mansfield, the Joseph Charter School FFA adviser, said 12 to 15 of her 90-member club planned to show, and Jeremy McCulloch, FFA adviser at Wallowa High School, said he expected about 40 youths to show their animals.
All three advisers said the COVID-19 pandemic and its restrictions have changed how the clubs operate this year. There’s a lot of online record-keeping and some virtual showing of animals.
“The kids are operating a little more independently than in past years,” McCulloch said.
Youths are getting online help from OSU Extension and veterinarians, Schofield said.
Mansfield said many of her FFA students raise swine. Some plan to sell them locally rather than wait for fair time. Before the pandemic, many had planned to take their swine to the cancelled Eastern Oregon Livestock Show in Union that was to be held June 10 to 13.
But there’s still a measure of uncertainty on how the fair will look this far in advance.
“Until we get closer to fair time we’re just not going to know,” Stanley said. “We’ll just keep brainstorming.”
Schofield noted the small size of the fair works in its favor. “I know we’re lucky because a tremendous number of fairs in Oregon have had to cancel, and we have a small community fair without the potential of large crowds deal with,” she said. “We’re going to have the kids’ best interest at heart.”