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Minidoka County fair implements safety precautions during COVID-19 pandemic
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Minidoka County fair implements safety precautions during COVID-19 pandemic

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RUPERT — The Minidoka County Fair and Rodeo will give hundreds of 4-Hers and FFA students a chance to show off their projects for the year, offer melt-in-the mouth treats like scones and Indonesian meat on a stick, provide a few bucking broncos for the cowboys, and try to keep everyone safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We tried to find a good balance between making events available but keeping it safe and clean for everyone,” said Leann Smith-Osterhout, fair secretary.

A few of the 4-H/FFA events have been cancelled this year, including the face-to face interviews, the shooting trailer events and the rodeo queen contest, but the grandma queen will still be crowned on Saturday during the rodeo.

Smith-Osterhout said the queen contest was canceled because decisions about holding the events were not made in time to purchase the prize saddle and put other pieces of the contest in place.

The fair board worked hard to implement safety precautions and will have masks and gloves available for the superintendents and judges and people attending are encouraged to wear masks, Smith-Osterhout said.

There will also be hand sanitizing stations available and signs that remind people to social distance.

“It will be hard to socially distance in the grandstands,” she said. “The people who choose to come will accept that risk; if not, they should stay home.”

The livestock sale will be held on Saturday but this year they will allow phone bids for people who want to support the sale but do not feel comfortable attending in person, said Jeni Bywater, 4-H program coordinator.

People wanting to bid on livestock can call Greg Walton at 208-670-4365.

“All of the businesses jumped right in and wanted to support it and I think that says something about how the community feels about it,” Smith-Osterhout said.

There will be 14 food vendors this year, including a hamburger and french fry booth operated by 4-H youth as a fundraiser.

“Of course everyone loves to have a crepe or scone when they go to the fair,” said Smit-Osterhout. “And we will have both of those available. There will also be corn dogs, food from Let’s Go Dutch and Robin’s Roost Philly Cheesesteak, along with snow cones and funnel cakes.”

She said are expecting “huge rodeo numbers” this year, because there are so many canceled rodeos.

Bywater said there were 340 4-H members and 80 volunteers in 20 4-H clubs.

“Our numbers held really steady,” she said, “I think they may have had extra time at home and they couldn’t do things like sports.”

Participation in food projects, she said, nearly doubled from 45 last year to 75 this year. The addition of the Cupcake Wars competition last year, which requires the 4-Her to participate in a food project, may have played a roll.

“We really applaud our leaders this year during COVID. The kids are required to attend six meetings and some of the leaders implemented Zoom meetings and they all had to learn that skill. It was totally different for them,” she said. “We are just really glad to be able to have the fair. The kids have worked really hard.”

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