HICKSVILLE — Like almost every other event this summer, 2020 yielded a most unusual Defiance County Fair.
With the senior fair essentially cancelled due to the ongoing health crisis, senior fair board president Jerry Sanders displayed patience and hope for the future.
“It definitely had a financial impact,” he said, “but we’re hanging in there.”
While the fair initially posted advertising displaying a hope that the annual eight-day event would go on, it eventually reached the point where cancellation was more than likely.
“You could just see it coming,” Sanders said. “The governor’s office wanted us to go forward, but there were too many restrictions — some things couldn’t be done.”
One event — state funded harness racing — went on as scheduled, though there was no betting or people in the stands. “People were sitting in their vehicles watching,” Sanders said. “The harness association had a plan in place before anyone.”
With the senior fair cancelled, its board was left with a challenging question — what to do about the young people from 4-H who put so much into their animals throughout the year in preparation for it?
“We put a plan together,” Sanders said, noting that judging went on as scheduled in a somewhat altered form. “We had a lot of help from 4-H and the kids.
“We couldn’t have gotten it done without Teresa (Johnson) and her staff.”
With an altered judging season on tap, Sanders reported being worried about things going wrong, which, he happily reported, turned out to be unfounded.
“I was dreading it,” he admitted, “but everybody did what they were supposed to do. I was very happy with the outcome of everything.”
Looking back, Sanders said he was pleased that the senior and junior fair boards got to help the youth. “That’s our main purpose,” he said.
And as to 2021 and the years beyond?
“We’re not going to quit,” he said. “We’ve had other bad years, but we do the best that we can.”
“It went well, all things considered,” said Teresa Johnson, Defiance County 4-H educator with OSU Extension.
While overall the junior fair suffered a 35% drop in exhibitors and entries, Johnson understands the main reason why this occurred. “Many people brought in one animal (to exhibit) instead of several,” she said.
Although junior fair judging went on throughout the week, certain changes had to be made — for instance, animals being exhibited once a day instead of throughout the week.
“We had to market our animals daily,” she said.
But what could have been a difficult situation was made bearable by the efforts everyone made to do as smooth a week as possible. “Everybody was very cooperative,” she said.
The 4-H Queen, Ayersville’s Allison Engel, also was crowned at the start of the week.
When the fair returns to normal, she added, new ideas implemented this year will likely remain in place. “We’ll most likely continue to live stream,” she said. “HIX-TV (the village’s cable access television station) helped us with that. (The judging was) streamed to the HIX-TV YouTube channel.
“Also, I was in the process of developing a 4-H app to get schedules to families, as well as results and changes,” she added, noting that is not likely to change either.
Meanwhile, though no one said this fair week was ideal, helping the 4-H youth went on as scheduled and came off successfully.
“Everyone was very happy that they were able to complete their projects,” Johnson said.