There will be no carnival rides, greasy food or spectators.

While the Skagit County Fair was cancelled this year following Skagit County Public Health’s recommendation to cancel large events to slow the spread of COVID-19, Skagit 4-H members have planned a virtual showcase, called Coro-NO Fair, to exhibit their animals and projects.

Competitors will submit photos and videos of their projects July 17-20 for evaluation, and winners will be announced on Aug. 9. Animal costume contests will be held virtually on the Skagit County 4-H Facebook page throughout July.

With 4-H members unable to meet face-to-face due to the pandemic, a team of seven youth volunteers and several adult volunteers have been meeting virtually each week to plan the showcase. About half the students are in charge of social media and the other half on building a website and virtual contest entry forms.

The youth volunteers — who are called “digital ambassadors” — are Landon Anderson, Dakota Ford, Emma Helgeson, Arthur Hendrix, Josh Holtcamp, Camree Nilsen and Claire See.

In a conference call Monday, the youth volunteers said they will miss not only the fun of the fair, but the social interaction of the 4-H program.

“Once a week I would go to meetings and it’s all over, it’s hard, it’s sad,” said Nilsen, an incoming senior who is exhibiting her 4-year-old border collie Finn. “I do enjoy 4-H and I’ve done it for four years. It’s hard to stay motivated when you’re by yourself. There’s so much more to 4-H than just showing. The leadership aspect and getting together with everyone.”

Skagit 4-H program coordinator Dorothy Elsner said the program will be unable to resume face-to-face meetings until Phase 4 of the state’s reopening plan, in accordance with guidance from the Washington State University Extension, which runs 4-H.

Despite the circumstances, she said it was important to keep the program going.

“When this all started, we said we were going to innovate and persevere,” she said. “It’s been harder and harder as we go along. This group has been dynamic in keeping our sparkle going in Skagit.”

Elsner said about 400 people typically exhibit at the fair each year. She said as of Monday, the virtual showcase had received 46 entries.

Helgeson, a 4-H member whose projects include rabbits, cavy (guinea pigs) and archery, said she learns best alongside her fellow 4-H members.

“It’s a little different because I’m not going to be competing right now next to someone,” she said. “I feel like I don’t have as much motivation to study.”

See, an incoming sophomore who exhibits rabbits and cats, said to help motivate 4-H members to study, she created virtual flash cards for her fellow competitors to test their knowledge.

She said instead of answering questions about their animals from judges, 4-H members will have to find ways to creatively show off their knowledge while on camera.

The livestock sale that is held each year during the fair was also cancelled. Elsner said a virtual market auction had been in the works, but was canceled due to high costs of technology and low number of 4-H participants.

Ford, another 4-H member, said she had planned to enter her goat in the auction, but will now have to find a buyer on her own — or keep the goat for her own family to eat.

Some 4-H projects cannot be adapted virtually. Elsner said students who do archery will not be able to compete due to the restrictions around meeting in person. She said those members have the option to present an educational poster instead.

Nilsen said it’s been difficult for some members to participate this year due to challenges around technology.

“But we’re going to try to make it the best for the people involved,” she said. “That’s what is keeping us as a team motivated.”

Registration for the virtual showcase is open through July 10, and any 4-H member in a Skagit County club may enter. Registration is free and available at skagit4h.com.

— Reporter Jacqueline Allison: jallison@skagitpublishing.com, 360-416-2145, Twitter: @Jacqueline_SVH

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