Despite recent changes at the Tulsa State Fair, Rogers County fair-goers can still look forward to the sights and sounds of the fair in Claremore as the Rogers County Fair will be held as usual this year. A few things will be modified, but the Fair will still be the kick-off event to fall that we all look forward to each year.
This year the livestock shows will go forward on their normal days, and then on Monday, the premium sale will occur as an online event.
“We started out in April with a number of contingency plans to be responsive to COVID-19,” explained Susan Gebhart, vice-president, Rogers County Fair Board, and president of the Rogers County Premium Auction Committee. “Just before the recent Community Media Day members of the fair board met and settled upon which contingency plan best suited our current situation. We’ve been in collaboration with several local government and community organizations, so that whatever we chose to do would be compliant with current safety guidelines and that it would be good for all parties concerned.”
As such, Gebhart said this year’s fair would be held September 17 through 20, with several safety protocols in place, and the understanding that plans could be “tweaked” should the situation require it as the date draws nearer.
Premium sale participants include beef, swine, sheep, goat, and dairy exhibitors.
“There are many components of the fair that take place outside, which will allow people to social distance with plenty of fresh air,” she said. “For the time being, we’re planning to kick the fair off with fireworks on the night of September 17, which is also typically the night when the carnival has their first ride night.
“Outdoor food trucks also will be present, and we’ll be hosting live entertainment, but everything will be presented in such a way that it is open, outdoors, uncrowded and easy to navigate while allowing for social distancing,” she said.
Gebhart said the density of indoor exhibits would not be as “tight” as in previous years, also encouraging freedom of space and social distancing.
“Even with more space and a focus on outdoor activities this year, we’re not requiring people to wear a mask or face covering except in the carnival area. Due to the closer proximity of fairgoers in this area, we are asking folks to wear a mask in the carnival. In other areas with greater spacing, masks are suggested” Gebhart said, “and of course, for anyone who has been exposed (to the virus), is symptomatic, or who is in an at-risk group, we would certainly recommend you skip the fair this year – just for everyone’s best interest.
“Everyone knows the situation we’re all dealing with (regarding the virus), people know what’s going on, we can still have a great fair for those who choose to attend if we are careful and considerate of others,” she said.
Among the returning traditions to the 100+ year old fair will be the Rogers County Junior Premium Sale.
The premium auction recognizes the hard work of top livestock exhibitors and supports area students within local Agriculture programs and organizations, such as 4-H and FFA. “Our community is always incredibly supportive of the exhibitors who make the sale, and our premium sale committee feels fortunate to have such generous backing each year,” Gebhart said.
“Premium (sale) participants include beef, swine, sheep, goat, and dairy exhibitors, of which the top make the cut, and with it being a premium sale, the students themselves get a monetary award. The animals themselves don’t change ownership as they would in a terminal sale – the animals remain with the students, but they also get the money raised by the auction,” she said.
Funds from the sale give the students the option of re-investing in their next livestock project or to further their education, such as putting it towards college.
Previous premium sales have raised upwards of $200,000, netting more than $2,300 per student participant. In addition, several scholarships are awarded at the sale each year. These scholarships are sponsored by Rogers State University and several local memorial funds.
“We won’t have overlap for the species in the barn this year, whereas normally, all the livestock would be in the barn simultaneously and, as a spectator, you could go out in the barn and see something of every species – that won’t happen this year,” she said. “The livestock shows will go forward on their normal days, and then on Monday, the premium sale will occur as an online event. This is a first for us. We’re confident the technology so many of us use on a daily basis will allow for a great sale. Many fairs around the country are utilizing the online format, and it’s working very well. This is another safety measure.
Students earning top honors at the fair further compete at the premium sale for the chance to earn funding toward future projects or college.
Even with the uncertainty of 2020, Gebhart said students who will be participating in the premium sale have been acting in faith that the fair would be held as usual.
“We recently had the livestock show that we usually host in May, but
COVID-19 moved it to August this year. At the show, our judge looked over the kids and commended the young people for their dedication,” she said. “He told them that they could have looked at everything going on in the world, back in May and sold animals they already had or not purchased animals for the fall. However, they chose to commit, and those students worked all summer long, their animals look great, and the students put in all the work that they would have in a normal year. It showed true commitment from the students and speaks very highly of their characters.”
Rogers County Fair will be held September 17-20 on the grounds of the Claremore Expo Center in Rogers County.
For more information, contact Kendel Stocker at the Claremore Expo at (918)342-5357.
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