Members of the Boone County 4-H Fair Board are working furiously in preparation for this year’s return of the fair.

“A lot of families and kids were disappointed,” board president Bryan Knoper said about the canceled fair from 2020. “We did the best we could with virtual options. The in-person fair was canceled but the fair did go on, virtually, but for a lot of families and kids it was a real let down compared with the real thing.”

Students were encouraged to submit photos and videos of the animals and they were judged according to the submissions. Knoper said bringing the fair back is essential for the community. He added that by the third week in July, whatever the Boone County Health Department and Purdue Extension recommend in terms of masks and social distancing will be followed.

“We want to abide by all those rules,” he said. “But we’re bound and determined to have as normal of a fair as we can this year.”

Last year’s in-person version of the fair had to be canceled the Friday before the event. So organizers have a template for how to have a fair among COVID-19 restrictions. They are armed with several sanitizing stations and will abide by the mask rules if still recommended.

“It was unbelievable how many hours of Zoom meetings we had,” Knoper said. “My rear end was getting sore. But we just kept charging forward because we are all about the families and the kids.”

The Boone County Commissioners financially helped the 4-H Fairgrounds Council to the tune of $176,000 in CARES Act revenue because the grounds had to be closed or used for testing or vaccinations. The typical family reunions or commercial expos were canceled, leaving the fair without revenue for the majority of the year.

“We still have expenses every month, of course,” Knoper said. “Because (Boone County) council and commissioners are 4-H people, had kids in 4-H and definitely value 4-H, they paid some of our bills, ongoing utilities and that, to keep us afloat so we didn’t go bankrupt. That was their choice. They didn’t have to help us out.”

Events are starting to pick up again. Last weekend’s Boone County Treasure Hunt attendance was large enough that police had to divert traffic away from the fairgrounds’ entrance. The Indiana High School Rodeo Association will host the Lebanon High School and Alumni Rodeo at 7 p.m. May 15.

Rodeo Organizer Chris Bourdon said this is the first event for the association in eight years in Boone County. He said the event will follow CDC guidelines for spectators of the outside event. For the contestants, it might be different.

“Sometimes I think when they’re throwing their leg over a thousand-pound animal, (COVID) is probably the last of their concerns,” Bourdon, who is from Sheridan, said. “I can say that as a parent.”

Bourdon’s son Evan and Zionsville’s Emilia Lane will be competing in the event.

The Boone County 4-H Fair is scheduled for July 17-23.

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