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Virtual exhibits, judging will keep Otter Tail 4-H tradition alive this year

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Members of the 4-H showed their rabbits at the East Otter Tail County Fair in 2019. (Submitted photo)

For many youths participating in one of the 15 4-H clubs in Easter Otter Tail County, the county fair usually means preparing and entering an exhibit.

In a normal year at the East Otter Tail County Fair, more than 100 dairy animals and 75 to 80 swine would be shown, according to Janet Malone, the Extension Educator for the 4-H Youth Development of East Otter Tail County.

“Over the years we typically have 1,500 to 2,000 4-H exhibits that’ll come into the county fair for East Otter Tail County,” Malone said.

While the East Otter Tail County Fair might be canceled for COVID-19 this year, 4-H exhibits will still go forward.

“We are working on virtual judging for our 4-Hers to showcase their events,” Malone said.

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The East Otter Tail County Fairgrounds will remain empty for most of the summer with many traditional summer activities, including the East Otter Tail County Fair, canceled for this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (RosaLin Alcoser/Focus)

The 4-H is still working on exactly how the system for the virtual judging will work, Malone said, as they work with their club members and the technology available.

The idea is that 4-Hers will enter their exhibits using the entry system that they have used in past years then they will upload photos and videos of their projects, Malone said. The judging will take place over Zoom meetings set up between the contestants and the judge, she said.

The exact date for the virtual exhibits and judging has not been set yet, but the plan is to try to keep it around when the fair would have been, Malone said. This year's East Otter Tail County Fair was to be July 23-26 at the fairgrounds in Perham. The goal is to do the entry, virtual showcasing and virtual judging around then as many families have already arranged to be off around then to take part in 4-H activities at the fair, Malone said.

The 4-H in East Otter Tail County has been trying to make the best of the situation, and respect the decisions made by both the Otter Tail fair board and the University of Minnesota to keep people safe, Malone said. Both the Minnesota State Fair and the West Otter Tail County Fair in Fergus Falls have also been canceled.

No matter the reason, the youths will still be disappointed.

“It’s been a challenge, I’m not going to say that it’s not been a challenge,” Malone said. "But it’s not a challenge that we can’t overcome if we put some positive attitude into trying to make it work the best way we can make it work.

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"The motto in 4-H is making the best better,” she said.

While the outcome of this year’s county fair is not ideal the East Otter Tail County 4-H is hoping that the 4-Hers will learn something from the nontraditional experience.

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4-H members waited in line for the judging of Art Work projects at the East Otter Tail County Fair in 2019. (Submitted photo)

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