For 4-H and National FFA Organization youth, the Latah County Fair is the culmination of months of time, effort and money into raising animals.
Leaders from the two nonprofit organizations said they are happy their livestock programs and auction are still a go despite cancellation of the fair, which was scheduled for next month at the Latah County Fairgrounds in Moscow.
“I am glad that the focus is on the students and their market projects,” Sam Hoffman, Troy High School agriculture teacher and FFA adviser, said. “We see a lot of different things come and go into the fair, such as the carnival, the vendors, the concerts, but it’s important to recognize that we are a Latah County Fair because of these students and their market animal projects. So I’m glad that the fair board and the sale committee are continuing on and finding new ways to innovate an online sale and still letting these students show.”
A Latah County Fair news release Wednesday stated the 4-H and FFA livestock programs will continue with a private livestock show and general 4-H exhibits entry Sept. 17-18, and a virtual market animal auction Sept. 19.
“Our highest priority since March has been to create an environment where the 4-H and FFA youth exhibitors can complete projects and sell their livestock, and we believe we can fulfill this goal and still provide a reasonable degree of safety,” the release stated.
Latah County Fair Board Chairperson Mauri Knott said the two huge differences are that the shows and exhibits will be private and the auction will be virtual.
Sara Fluer, associate University of Idaho Extension 4-H educator, said the livestock and animal shows will be limited to youth exhibitors and their immediate family members.
“They are absolutely vested in their projects,” Fluer said of the 4-H and FFA youth. “They have a reason and a purpose to be there and they are very glad and excited that we’re going to be able to move forward with these — even though it’s a limited capacity.”
Chelsey Sharp, Moscow High School agriculture teacher and FFA adviser, agreed.
“It’s a lot of commitment for a student to do this,” Sharp said. “Not only is it time commitment, but it’s also a lot of money that the students put into these animals and I think that the fair board’s decision was a smart one. … It’s super important and it’s super awesome that they’re allowing the students to showcase all of their hard work.”
For many of the youth, Knott said these projects were all they had this year because of the pandemic forcing the cancellation of other events in their lives. The amount of time and energy spent on the projects have been exceptional, she said.
Latah County Fair Manager Jim Logan said the fair cancellation means the county will miss out on the revenue it collects from the carnival and vendors at the fair. The fair does not charge admission.
Perhaps the most popular fair vendor for attendees is Troy FFA, which sells elephant ears from its trailer. The roughly 18-inch, cinnamon sugar, deep-fried dough treats have been a staple at the Latah County Fair for years.
“It’s really nice to be able to provide that service for our community,” Hoffman said. “It’s a big fundraiser for us so it’s not an ideal situation, but I guess we’re coming at it with the mindset that all these decisions for canceling events have one common goal in mind, and that’s keeping everybody safe. So we’ll stand behind the fair board’s decision and the sale committee’s decision to cancel the fair but we obviously would like to be there.”
He said the money raised from elephant ear sales supports student registration, travel expenses and lodging for student leadership conferences.
Hoffman said making and selling the elephant ears and interacting with the public develops work ethic in his FFA members.
“One of the things that I enjoy the most is the human interaction that my students get to participate in because they have to deal with customers and they have to have certain skills for interacting,” Hoffman said. “I mean, even something as trivial as running the till and being able to do math, I feel like it teaches them a lot of skills we don’t necessarily go over in class.”
Logan said this is the first time the fair has been canceled since as far back as the 1960s and likely before that. He said the Latah County Fair as people know it today started in 1911.
Garrett Cabeza can be reached at (208) 883-4631, or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.