Elkhart County 4H Fair ready to get back to business

ELKHART, Ind. -- The Elkhart County 4H Fair is gearing up for it’s reopening this summer. The annual nine-day event was canceled last year due to COVID-19, but this year fair organizers say they’ve been working with public health experts to create the safest experience for fairgoers. 

“We were so used to being here the last week of July and spending 9 days here and working and having fun and enjoying time as a family with the livestock and everything like that so it was definitely a tough time," said Trent Hostetler, Fair Board President. 

Determined to make this year’s events happen, the fair’s Health and Safety Committee joined forces with the Elkhart County Health Department in January to create a plan focused on flexibility.

“We have a plan for whether we’re in blue or yellow or orange and so we all know what we’re gonna do no matter where the county is at the time. We’re really hoping obviously to be in blue, but we have some work to get there yet as a county. But, we are prepared no matter where we are on the color coded system," said Monica Gould, Health and Safety Committee Member. 

Adjusting to the new normal, fair organizers didn’t let last year’s cancellations stop them from bringing Michiana’s favorite summer event to life.

Creating events like food drive through’s the board wanted to keep the community’s spirit alive and create fundraising opportunities after such a devastating financial hit.

“This was our opportunity to do some things that maybe we hadn’t done in the past because being so tied up in planning for the fair and putting on the fair," said Hostetler. 

Thinking outside of the box with the help of the health department, organizers say the safety protocols this year will be different, but it’s nothing far off from what we’ve already gotten used to in our every day lives.

“We’re gonna have signage up about you know make sure you sanitize. Make sure you social distance. We’re gonna have more seating areas on food row spread out throughout the grounds so that people can spread out more easily when they’re eating," said Gould. 

Changes for food row will stretch further than just spreading out seating areas. Eliminating self serve soda fountains, condiment tables, and reusable utensils are just some of the changes fairgoers can expect.

“We’ve put in place where there’s a cashier and that’s their job is to only take the cash or the credit cards. And then, there’s the server that only serves the food and then it’s the cook so we’ve kind of separated those jobs in the trailer to make sure there’s no crossing of anything," said Ryan Collier, Owner of Meatball Factory. 

Keeping minimum contact with others will be a priority and social distancing throughout the fair will be required through policies like gap seating, including at all live events like concerts and demolition derby.

“We are going to be charging for all tickets this year which is a little bit different. I know we hold that tradition of free grand stand seating close to our hearts, but in a year like this things have changed," said Miranda Muir, General Manager. 

Increased sanitization procedures will be another change guests can expect.

“We will be sanitizing all of the buildings all of the seating. All of the trams. Everything daily with a long term disinfectant and then all high touch areas will be disinfected every hour," said Muir. 

Facing so much uncertainty during the planning process one thing that was a given from the start - limiting capacity through ticket sales.

“Usually our tickets are available for all 9 days and you can come anytime, but this year you will have to pick a day for when you are coming to the fair," said Gould. 

While things are still changing leading up to this year’s events Muir says guests should have patience, be a part of it all, and sit back, relax, and enjoy.

“We need your help to keep the fair going for many years to come again last year was financially devastating for us and so to get through this year would mean so much for us and for the future of our event," said Muir. 

The fair will be opening July 23rd and tickets go on sale on May 28th. 

Share this article: