ENDERLIN, N.D. — The cancellation of the North Dakota State Fair due to the coronavirus pandemic was devastating for Enderlin 17-year-old Lindsey Galbreath and 4-H members across the state.
For members, the state fair is the culmination of a year of raising livestock and hands-on projects. It's also a chance for 4-H participants from across the state to meet up and make new friends.
“It was a hard moment for my family and for myself,” Galbreath said. “It didn’t feel real; the state fair is the one week where I get to see not only my work but the work of the individuals who buy pigs from us pay off.”
Galbreath said she uses most of her spare time in the summer raising and training show pigs. Not having a final payoff at the end of the summer is devastating, she said.
“I’m out with my animals all day to get them to be the best they can be,” she said. “Showing your animals and having them be the best they can be and winning something makes all of the hard work feel like it paid off.”
Tanya Kvamme, the leader of the Kindred Sandburrs 4-H club, and her family go to the state fair in Minot every year. They already had their tickets and camping passes purchased to be there for five days this summer.
“It is hard because it’s a week we look forward to,” Kvamme said. “It is fun for the parents as well as the kids to see different kids from different parts of the state show off what they’ve done for the year. It’s somewhat of a competition, but also they make friends there ... (My husband and I) have ag-related careers, so we get to see people with work as well.”
Kvamme and her family already had livestock purchased and ready to go before the pandemic hit. She said if they had known what was coming, they might not have bought quite so much this year.
Still, they’re still dedicated to raising their animals and doing the best they can even without the grand prize of the state fair at the end.
“We have steers in the corral that are big old puppy dogs,” Kvamme said. “And even on Easter, we’re still out there working with our animals. If nothing happens, I guess we have the experience of taking care of them and feeding them and seeing what we can make of them.”
Though there aren’t any concrete plans in place, Cass County NDSU Extension agent Sarah McNaughton said the organization is working on ways to compete virtually.
“We are going to do something to give the 4-Hers a chance to show off their work,” McNaughton said. “They work all year long on these projects, especially on the horse and livestock projects. The livestock deadline was May 1 and all of the 4-Hers had bought their animals because the fair hadn’t been canceled yet ... We wanted to give them the opportunity to showcase what they’ve learned.”
A virtual fair would be something of a natural step forward for 4-H clubs, many of which have been holding their monthly meetings online since the start of the pandemic.
It’s not an ideal situation, Kvamme said, but there is a positive side: Club members can record themselves and post videos on Facebook doing demonstrations they otherwise would not have been able to do at an in-person meeting. One member recorded himself showing off his rodeo skills and another demonstrated feeding a calf.
“It does limit you because you can’t be hands-on," Kvamme said. "(But) it does extend your audience out for watching or participating. It’s what life has dealt us right now and we have to deal with it.”