WAHOO – The fate of the Saunders County Fair remains unknown in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the Agricultural Society continues to hope that the event will take place in some fashion.
Extension Educator Cole Meador told the fair board during the virtual meeting on May 20 that there are three ways in which the fair can still take place. Option one is holding the fair as usual, but the odds are slim that will happen, he said, given that the normal fair atmosphere includes hundreds of people within close quarters.
“We’re all hopeful to have the fair we’re all used to, but we’ll see,” he said.
The second option is a virtual format, which is not the favored option of Meador or his colleagues at the Extension office. Meador said this may be the way the fair is operated if the 10-person limit is still in place. It will take a lot of manpower and there could be added costs, he said.
“This virtual format is definitely the last thing any of us want to do,” he said.
The final option is a progress/jackpot show format for the fair, where a family could come in for just one day and show, rather than stay the entire week. Livestreaming could also be available in this format, the extension educator said.
“This is the one that is most comfortable for us,” said Meador.
Meador said a month earlier, the Extension staff felt the fair would have to be virtual, but now they are leaning towards the progress/jackpot show format.
“I think we’ll at least be able to do option three hopefully,” he said.
The fair board members agreed that they want to have a fair in any way possible.
“It is about the kids and 4-H, that’s why we do the fair,” said Vice President Theresa Klein.
The board members agreed that they may have to hold a special meeting in June to discuss any regulations sent down by the state. One day after the meeting, the governor’s office issued guidance for restricted fair openings. The new Directed Health Measure (DHM) allows for restricted openings of larger events and gatherings, including county fairs. The guidelines were created by a coalition of representatives from the state Department of Agriculture, Nebraska Association of Fair Managers, the Nebraska State Fair, Nebraska Extension, Nebraska FFA and health departments.
The county fair includes more than just 4-H, FFA and other youth-based activities and shows. There is also the entertainment piece, which was going to be something special this year.
The concert committee lined up 1980s rock band 38 Special, known for hits like “Caught Up in You.” They will be on a double bill with country band BlackHawk on July 31 at the arena.
Concert Committee Member Jordan Kavan said they are still going ahead with plans for the concert, but will need to know by the end of June if it is going to happen, in order to advertise. He said there is a possibility they could reschedule the bands for next year if the event is cancelled.
Another big aspect of the fair is the carnival rides. Amusement Association President Bob Spicka told the fair board that they are moving forward with setting up the rides. If the fair does not happen, they may take the opportunity to do maintenance.
“Everybody’s got a different mindset on how to mitigate this,” he said.
Spicka and Amusement Association Secretary Steve Olson said it will be very difficult to clean the rides after each person, and that finding volunteers to operate the rides could be an issue because of the pandemic.
“For us to operate normally will be really, really tough,” Olson said.
Because the situation is so fluid, Spicka said they will proceed as normal but there may be a fair with no rides this year.
“We may not pull the trigger on this,” he said.
Another big event that is held at the fairgrounds in the summer is the Wahoo Country Music Show. Organizer Sharon Kenaston attended the meeting to make an announcement.
“It is fairly evident that we can’t have the 23rd annual Wahoo Country Music Show,” she told the fair board.
Kenaston is looking at revamping the event to make it an unstructured “campout” instead, where people come at their own risk.