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4-Hers continue projects under COVID-19 restrictions

With restrictions on crowd size in place for the foreseeable future, organizers of many large events in the county are waiting to see what happens before making plans.

Among those impacted are local 4-H groups, who showcase their projects at the Lawrence County Fair each July.

As of now, all 4-H activities, club meetings, events and programs must be held virtually or cancelled until May 15, according to Ohio 4-H Youth Development Assistant Director Kirk Bloir.

He said the ban may need to be extended beyond that date.

“We know the spread of coronavirus presents great uncertainty about upcoming 4-H events—Will camps happen this summer? Will we be able to exhibit our projects at fairs? What about project judging? And the answer is that right now, we just don’t know,” he wrote in a statement.

Bloir said some fairs may not be able to take place this year, due to the global pandemic health emergency.

“Any decision to cancel a local fair, festival, parade or other large group gatherings will be made by those authorized to protect the health and wellbeing of all Ohioans,” he said.

According to Dr. Amy Acton, the director of the Ohio Department of Health, coronavirus cases are expected to peak in the state around May 1, with the decline in the curve expected to go into early June, so it possible restrictions could be lifted or eased by the time of the fair in July.

Chris Collier, the vice president of the Lawrence County Fair Board, said organizers are “still going like we are going to have it.”

He said contracts have been signed for acts and the fair will still take place, unless restrictions on gatherings forbid it.

“We’re not going to cancel and the only way it won’t happen is if the state doesn’t allow it,” he said.

Collier said the event takes 12 months to put together and organizers are proceeding as normal for now.

He said, after restrictions are lifted or eased, the fair could prove to be a popular draw, giving people a major outside event after a long period under the governor’s stay-at-home order.

Rachel Fraley, the Ohio State University extension educator for Lawrence County, said 4-H is important for youth because it “creates an opportunity to learn many workforce development, leadership and life skills and unforgettable memories.”

She said currently, many 4-H members are “persevering and continuing to find new and creative ways to begin their 4-H projects.”

“Members with livestock projects are feeding and caring for their animals, in hopes to participate at the fair, but know the responsibility and the opportunity to care for an animal is as an invaluable experience,” she said. “Our 4-H volunteers are beginning to use virtual methods of communication to engage with their club members providing a fun, positive environment for youth to interact with one another.”

She said the extension office, located in the Lawrence County Courthouse, is temporarily closed.

“But our staff is available via e-mail and by calling 740-533-4322,” she said. “We are also regularly updating our website at lawrence.osu.edu and Facebook page @lawrence4H with ideas and opportunities to engage in this year’s 4-H program.”