COVID-19 Update: County Fairs

June 16, 2020

The announcement last week that the Iowa State Fair has been postponed until 2021 has resulted in ongoing conversations and strong emotions for many across the state. ISU Extension and Outreach values our 117 years of history, passion, and the success of countless 4-H youth each year through the traditions of our county and state fairs. This year is no different in that respect. We are working with the Iowa State Fair Board, and the decision regarding 4-H learning opportunities is under discussion.

County fair boards across the state are partnering with our extension councils and staff to create a safe, quality 4-H county fair experience for everyone. For some, that means postponing county fairs, focusing only on youth shows and moving some activities to a virtual platform. Others are moving forward with an in-person experience. I would like to share with you my thoughts related to county fairs that are planning in-person events and activities.

While we are reopening Iowa, health and safety for all remains a primary concern. Health and safety decisions may likely look different depending upon your location in the state, and the number of cases and trajectory of COVID-19. At a minimum, however, we expect that county fair activity involving ISU Extension and Outreach will follow the guidance provided by Governor Reynolds through the State Public Health Emergency Declaration (latest version is June 10, 2020). Our preference and recommendation is to follow Iowa 4-H Youth Development Summer Best Practices and Expectations. You may find all of our guidance on the Open for Iowa webpage.

We recognize that some of our staff, who are integral to their county fair’s success, may not feel safe in certain environments. I ask that supervisors and extension council members consider and respect caregiving and health needs that may affect a staff member’s ability to be present at fair events and activities. Please work with regional directors to develop alternative strategies and plans that are mutually beneficial.

One important aspect specific to ISU Extension and Outreach is that the insurance providing coverage for county offices now grants protection for illness that occurs as a result of COVID-19. However, the caveat to that coverage is that no prepared food may be served, sold, or provided at any county extension office-hosted program or activity regardless of the program or activity location. We understand there are questions to be answered relative to this stipulation, and we are working on receiving those answers and communicating them to you. If you have immediate needs due to upcoming fairs or other events, please contact your regional director and youth program specialist.

I trust our staff, extension council members, and partners. I know you will implement a variety of county fair experiences that are appropriate for local conditions; follow guidance from our Governor, the Iowa Department of Public Health, and local public health officials; and incorporate best practices and expectations from 4-H. Our 4-H Positive Youth Development Program empowers youth to reach their full potential through youth-adult partnerships and research-based experiences. Thank you for your continuing efforts to accomplish our mission.

John D. Lawrence
Vice President for Extension and Outreach