Canceled Minnesota State Fair puts a damper on summer for 4-H programs

Gillian Haveman, a 4-H member, won't be able to show her horse this year after the county and state fairs were canceled due to COVID-19. (FOX 9)

The State Fair's announcement that the show won't go on this summer has hit Minnesota hard. That includes thousands of 4-H kids who work all year long to compete and earn scholarships.

As a 4-H member, Gillian Haveman looks forward to showing her horses, like Love, at the county and state fairs every year. This summer, they won't get a chance to compete for a blue ribbon because both fairs have been canceled due to concerns about the spread of COVID-19.

"I was expecting it, but I was still pretty disappointed because that’s kind of my favorite part of the summer is the week of the county fair and the state fair," said Haveman.

Haveman is one of the nearly 6,000 young people who participate in the Great Minnesota Get-Together through their local 4-H program each year. For Haveman, the 12 best days of summer aren't just about showing projects or exhibiting livestock. They're a chance to hang out with other teenagers in her social circle, who are also in 4-H.

"It’s just been such a great week with my friends and everything like that,” she said. “That's not something you can really replace. So I was very definitely sad and disappointed it wasn't going to be happening this summer."

For the last four years, Haveman has won ribbons for projects ranging from the presidential inauguration to human trafficking. For the last couple of years, she's also stayed on the fairgrounds for the entire run of the Fair as an ambassador to greet visitors as they arrive at the 4-H building.

"We just run around and have fun all week,” she said. “Excited we got that great achievement. We got to State. It’s just fun to run around and eat junk food and get free sunglasses and things like that."

4-H is looking at other ways for young people to submit their projects and get judged virtually through video conferencing, but Haveman says her State Fair hopes have been put out to pasture - at least for this year.

"I think it’s good we are taking the precaution to protect people and make sure everyone stays safe, but I think it’s disappointing for a lot of youth across the state who won't get that experience now," she said.