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Community members of all ages rally to make Allamakee County Fair possible

Kaitlyn Riley

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The show will go on in Allamakee County.

The northeast Iowa fair is set for July 8-12. While there will be livestock shows, food, and entertainment, the 2020 celebration will look much different than in years past.

“Safety is our number one priority,” Extension County Youth Coordinator Morgan Bjerke said. “Making sure that we are able to follow social distancing and following the guidelines that we have been placed with has been at the forefront of our planning.”

The ‘show and go’ model will still give youth the chance to exhibit livestock. Bjerke explained they will arrive with their specific species and once that particular show is completed, they will be dismissed from the grounds. On average, there will be up to two livestock shows a day.

Considering the many changes and unpredictability of 2020, the number of exhibitors entered is comparable to a typical fair.

“I’m really proud and excited about the youth of our county,” Bjerke said. “Everybody has shown resiliency and persevered.”

Leading up to the fair, the swine, sheep, and meat goat weigh-ins were canceled, but they still IDed their animals in hopes of having a fair.

“Just like any other farmer, they still work to be able to provide a product and a project for themselves throughout this unique time,” Bjerke said.

One of those exhibitors who pushed through the challenges is Alaina Gebel. She has been involved in 4-H since 4th grade. Gebel has shown her sheep and pigs not only at the Allamakee County Fair but also at the Iowa State Fair. This year, she was part of a Youth Development Committee and County Council to help make the fair possible.

One of those exhibitors who pushed through the challenges is Alaina Gebel. She has been involved in 4-H since 4th grade. Gebel has shown her sheep and pigs not only at the Allamakee County Fair but also at the Iowa State Fair. This year, she was part of a Youth Development Committee and County Council to help make the fair possible.

“There have been many difficulties in trying to figure out how this whole fair will work and how to be safe while doing so, but also remembering other people’s perspectives,” Gebel said.

They planned everything from the show itself to how to sell their animals. Exhibitors were challenged to individually market and sell their livestock. On Sunday night, there will be a premium auction at the fair, but no actual livestock will be sold. Proceeds will be given to the kids on top of the market price they received.

“I think it will be great to have local meat in our community and also have an opportunity to talk to buyers from our community,” Gebel said.

Despite the obstacles of preparing in a pandemic, 4-Hers showed their true hearts and ability to adapt.

“This is what life handed us right now,” Bjerke said. They are open-minded to different ways of doing things.”

She acknowledged how the community also stepped up to show support.

“We’re just really excited to provide an opportunity for our youth,” Bjerke said. “We know how hard they have worked throughout this pandemic and throughout the year. This has been a long process for these kids, and I just want to extend a personal thank you to the community for supporting these kids and for everybody that has been involved in the conversation to lead us up to this point.”

If people do wish to attend the shows, they will be asked to abide by the social distancing guidelines. The shows will also be live-streamed through the Allamakee County 4-H Facebook page along with the Allamakee County Fair page.

“Keep doing what you are doing,” Gebel said to encourage fellow youth. “Keep working. The fair might not look the same, but it will be worth it in the end.”

Kaitlyn Riley’s passion for communications started on her family’s dairy farm in Gays Mills, Wis. Wanting to share agriculture’s story, she studied strategic communications and broadcast journalism at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In college, she held officer positions with the Association of Women in Agriculture and Badger Dairy Club while volunteering as a news reporter for the college radio station. She also founded the university’s first agricultural radio talk show, AgChat. In her professional career, Kaitlyn has worked in both radio, print and television news doing everything from covering local events to interviewing presidential candidates, and putting back on her barn boots to chat with farmers in the field. Today, Kaitlyn can be seen covering local stories that matter to you in the La Crosse area.

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