Selena Killham of Marion loves 4-H, the Linn County Fair and the Iowa State Fair.
And even though those fairs are much different this year than last, because of the pandemic, she understands the reasons — “so people can be safe” — and retains her optimism.
“Whatever has to happen, has to happen,” the 16-year-old said.
The pandemic forced cancellation of county and state fairs throughout the country, but Iowa fair organizers have done their best to find ways 4-H and FFA youth can show their animals and exhibits, either in-person or virtually.
The Linn County Fair, for example, asked for photos and videos of animals, with judges providing video feedback to young people.
Killham, a 4-H member for seven years, took pictures of her cat, Snuggles, who loves posing for photos, so it was no problem getting pictures to the judges of the cat show.
Her rabbits, however, are active, so getting them to sit still was a chore, she said. It was stressful, but she said she enjoyed learning about a new way to show her animals.
Her favorite event, rabbit agility, was canceled, though.
Killham, a member of the Prairie Union Wildcats 4-H club, also was a judge at the Linn County Fair for the first time this year, judging projects submitted by Clover Kids, or 4-H members in kindergarten through third grade.
“You could just tell everybody put a lot of effort into their projects,” she said.
As a member of the local 4-H Youth Council, Killham also got a behind-the-scenes look at how the fair works. The young people came up with the idea of using bitmojis — virtual avatars — to guide viewers through the virtual fair.
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Killham will be entering her exhibits in the state fair virtually, except for her rabbits, which she gets to take to Des Moines this month for the Iowa 4-H and FFA Livestock Show — a show set up in place of the Iowa State Fair so Iowa youth have a chance to show their animals.
It runs Thursday through Aug. 22, with the rabbit judging on Friday.
The livestock show has wide separation between events, with social distancing protocols in place. The size of crowds viewing the shows also will be limited.
Killham showed her animals for the first time at the state fair last year and got to sleep in the livestock barn. That won’t happen this year.
And even though this year’s fair will be much different than last year’s, Killham’s optimism again asserts itself.
“At least we get to show,” she said.
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