BENTONVILLE -- The 116th Benton County Fair will limit its schedule and attendance this year to exhibitors and immediate family because of covid-19, Ashley Hays, Fair Board president, announced Monday.
The fair will be Aug. 4-8 at the Benton County Fairgrounds.
The public is asked to attend the fair online and support local youth agriculture via streaming shows and the online Junior Livestock Premium Auction on Aug. 7-13 at www.cmcauctions.com. In 2019, $167,000 was raised through the auction to support 139 young people with livestock projects and further their education after high school, according to a news release.
"We were advised by the Arkansas Department of Health and the Arkansas Agriculture and Poultry Commission to scale back our event given the number of covid cases in Northwest Arkansas," Hays said.
All fair exhibitors, exhibitor family members, volunteers and staff are required to wear a face covering or mask over their nose and mouth while at the fairgrounds and to follow federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention health guidelines including social distancing, according to the release.
Social distancing at the fair means staying 6 feet -- one cow or two pigs or three goats -- apart from other nonfamily members. The modified schedule is open to registered exhibitors only and limited immediate family, according to the release.
There will be no food, music or carnival. Livestock will be checked in and released daily, according to the release.
The rabbit show will take place online according to state veterinary recommendations.
Janice Shofner, county extension agent for 4-H youth development with the Benton County Cooperative Extension Service, said 130 kids will participate in the livestock shows.
"We all are just grateful that the fair found a way to let the kids show the projects that they have been working on," she said. "Also, we are hoping that non 4-H members will also enter their crafts, art projects, canning, sewing, etc., in this year's fair."
Items need to be entered online by noon Friday, she said.
Even with thousands of fewer people on the fair campus, additional measures will be taken to clean high traffic areas and disinfect the livestock barn. Exhibitors will be asked to follow designated entries and exits, the release stated.
"We are fortunate to have modern facilities and a large 60-acre campus to help exhibitors spread out," said Susan Koehler, fair and events manager. "We are planning to take advantage of our space accepting items for the exhibit hall via a drive-through process. We want Benton County residents who might not be familiar with the fair and our longtime exhibitors to feel safe participating."
The fair will limit traffic entry points. Livestock exhibitors are asked to use the west gate off Arkansas 279. Exhibit Hall exhibitors are asked to use the east gate off Barron Road. Pageant contestants and family will use the south gate off Regional Airport Boulevard and park on the midway by the auditorium, the release stated.
The Washington County Fair set for Aug. 25-29 will commence for junior exhibition only and will be closed to the public, according to its website. The county fair association is working to navigate the details to follow all local and state regulations to provide a safe environment for the youth of Washington County, according to the fair website.
More information will be provided as it becomes available, according to the fair website.
There will be no entries in the horticulture building, table settings, educational booths, baked goods and hobby and collectibles, according to the fair website.
The coronavirus pandemic has also caused the Arkansas State Fair to be canceled for the first time since World War II, said Doug White, general manager of the event.
The state fair in Little Rock was scheduled for Oct. 16-25.
White said the board voted to cancel this year's fair while leaving the door open for a possible livestock show during that same 10 days in October.
The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette’s Bill Bowden contributed to this report. Mike Jones may be reached by email at [email protected]