Franklin County Fair pared to 4-H showcase

Greg Mast
The 155th Franklin County Fair will be a 4-H showcase this year because of COVID-19 concerns. The fair will not have any public events, and all 4-H events are limited to participants and family members.

Not even a pandemic can shelve the Franklin County Fair, the oldest continuously running fair in Kansas.

The Franklin County Fair’s 155th straight event, July 14-19, will only be a 4-H showcase event with no outside events or spectators because of COVID-19 concerns.

The Franklin County Fair Board made the changes with guidance from the Franklin County Emergency Operations Center and the public health officer to alter the fair for one year.

Fair board president Melissa Hatfield said COVID-19 caused the board to evaluate every aspect of the annual fair.

“Together, county officials and fair board members studied the logistics of conducting the 2020 fair while following guidelines such as required social distancing, mass gathering limits where social distancing is not possible and how to enforce these changes,” she said. “The result is a health plan in alignment with Public Health orders that will unfortunately drastically change the 2020 Franklin County Fair, but still allows for our 4-H youth to showcase their projects.”

The fair will be limited to 4-H participants and families. The board canceled all public events, which included the carnival, ranch rodeo, annual barbecue, youth rodeo, demolition derby and commercial vendors.

“Please know, we evaluated different scenarios to host the fair within the guidelines,” Hatfield said. “We did not take any decision or action lightly. We appreciate your understanding and support as we work through these unprecedented times. Our plans always aim to keep the safety and health of our exhibitors, families, patrons, vendors, and entertainment first and foremost. This year has led to difficult decisions to be made.”

Fair officials said there are plans to have a fall demolition derby, which is routinely attend by a standing room-only crowd.

“We will again be working with local officials to determine if restrictions will allow the event closer to that event date,” Hatfield said.

The fair board is still working out the logistics of the showcase events.

“We are currently working with K-State Research & Extension, local 4-H agents, and county officials on the plans for the 4-H Showcase events,” Hatfield said. “The board will limit attendance at 4-H showcases to exhibitors and their families during any activity at the fairgrounds. We will be working on providing streaming and virtual results to the general public for showcase events.”

Hatfield added every event has been affected by the guidelines within which the board is operating.

The annual livestock auction will be held at 5:30 p.m. July 18 with a bit of a twist.

“It will be converted to an online auction, with more information forthcoming via our website and letters to past buyers,” Hatfield said.

The board would appreciate everyone’s patience and understanding of all the changes, officials said.

“This situation is one we never could have anticipated nor want to ever have repeated,” Hatfield said. “We hope next year is back to the normal format where we can welcome all of Franklin County, our surrounding communities and neighbors, and out-of-state friends to Ottawa, Kansas.”

The fair's demolition derby, along with the rest of the public events, have been canceled for 2020. Fair officials hope to have a fall demolition derby.