Local officials have opted to hold a much different 4-H fair this year after being given the green light by Purdue University nearly a week ago to start planning for this year’s event.

That was the decision of the Miami County Fair Board after a recent meeting to discuss what this year’s fair might look like given certain restrictions put in place by the university because of health concerns surrounding the coronavirus pandemic.

“The Miami County Fairboard has decided due to the restrictive nature of the PPE rules from Purdue that the 2020 Miami County 4-H Fair will not take place in person,” read a letter from Rusty Merritt, board president, that was posted to various social media pages on Thursday.

That, according to Merritt’s letter, and Kim Frazier, Miami County Purdue Extension Educator, means that this year’s fair is not going to look like the typical annual summer event.

“We will have a 4-H Fair experience but it will be virtual for livestock,” Frazier told the Tribune on Friday.

Participants will be asked to submit photos and videos of their animals.

“Then we will have a judge judge them,” she said. “It will certainly be different than a live show.”

Project entries are currently slated to be dropped off at the Community Building – the regular venue for such entries – on July 20. On July 21, Frazier said, the building will be closed to everyone but volunteers and judges for a full day of judging.

Once winners are announced, projects not bound for the State Fair can be picked up on July 22.

Exactly how, and when, the livestock judging is going to take place is still being worked out. .

“We are wrapping our brains around how this is going to happen,” she said.

Officials announced in April that the local fair would have to be postponed this year as Purdue had placed a restriction on face-to-face meetings through June 30.

In a May 15 announcement, the university, whose Extension program oversees 4-H in the state, announced that local fair boards could start planning their events to take place after that June 30 date had passed.

“County 4-H educators have received implementation guidance,” a news release said at the time of that announcement. “The guidance, developed from industry and government best practices, will aid 4-H councils, fair boards, and county educators in planning over the next six weeks. In some cases, 4-H councils and extension boards may choose to virtualize their fair experience due to financial limitations, PPE availability or other locally determined restrictions. Purdue Extension 4-H specialists have developed models for virtual 4-H fairs in preparation that some counties may not be able to adequately follow federal, state, and local guidelines.”

A letter, signed Thursday by Frazier and local Extension Educator Corey Roser, acknowledged the local board’s decision.

“Both Kim & I have fielded many calls, questions, and understand the multitude of emotions that come with a decision of this magnitude,” it said. “Some people will be relieved with the decision, while others will be sad or mad. At the end of the day, the requirements from Purdue Extension at the University level to have an in-person fair were daunting, and compliance with those requirements would have been near impossible.”

“As we move forward, I would ask that we all remember that each of us are the face of 4-H in Miami County,” the letter said in closing. “We can (and should) take a moment to be sad/mad/angry about the decisions that have been made, but then it is time for us to go forward like the 4-H motto says ‘to make the best better.’ If those around you see 4-H represented in a negative way, they will choose to think negatively about 4-H. Let us show our community the tenacity, creativity, and determination that our 4-H members exhibit every day.”