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County board votes to allow use of fairgrounds for 4-H livestock shows

The Freeborn County Board of Commissioners voted 3-2 Tuesday to allow the county fairgrounds to be used for 4-H livestock shows in August. 

The board voted in May that the fairgrounds be closed for both public and private events until further notice because of the COVID-19 pandemic, including for the Freeborn County Fair.

Commissioners Glen Mathiason, Dan Belshan and Mike Lee on Tuesday voted to allow limited use for the livestock showing, while commissioners Chris Shoff and Jim Nelson voted against. 

Mathiason and Lee encouraged 4-H leaders to strictly follow recommended protocol to make sure it is as safe as possible. 

“Minnesota 4-H will have detriment if any county goes forward and has fallout, so that is definitely our No. 1 goal to ensure safety,” said Amy Wadding, who is a University of Minnesota Extension educator and works with 4-H youth development in Freeborn County. 

Wadding said the shows would incorporate safety protocol from the University of Minnesota, including limiting each show to 25 people, including staff, participants and parents.. 

There would be one entrance into the fairgrounds and one exit out, and they are likely to have only one species shown per day, with the possibility for two of the smaller species per day — one in the morning and one in the afternoon. 

Some of the other protocols include having families do temperature checks at home or at the entrance to the fairgrounds, and having hand sanitizers distributed throughout. All staff, exhibitors and parents will be required to wear face masks, and the University of Minnesota will have personal protective equipment and cleaning supplies available to order, Wadding said. 

She said animals would get off the trailer, be shown and then put back on the trailer. 

“It is not an amenity for families to come and hang out for the day,” Wadding said, but noted it is still an opportunity for youth to show their animals, which is what many have asked for. 

There are an estimated 244 youth exhibitors right now signed up for the livestock shows.

She said the university has worked diligently to figure out how to safely navigate showing livestock in counties and to come up with a consistent plan that can be utilized across the state. 

Wadding said 4-H strives to maintain the safety of its participants and the community in which they live and serve, but it is also the goal to allow the youth to showcase their projects that they have been working on since the end of last year. 

Shoff asked whether there was the ability to do the shows online, and Wadding said there is the ability to move it all online if necessary. 

She said the projects typically showcased in the 4-H Building will move online through Flipgrid. She estimated 543 projects will be showcased through this format. 

Mathiason said he has been involved with 4-H all of his life and noted how some of the county’s budget every year is allocated to the Extension program. 

Participants would still have the ability to qualify to participate at the state level as well.

Freeborn County Administrator Tom Jensen said county staff had recommended the fairgrounds remain closed to activities simply because of the continuing rise of COVID-19 case numbers. He said many people are congregating throughout the county and are not taking personal responsibility, and he thinks the county should do all it can to maintain the public health.  

Shoff said he could not in good conscience support opening the fairgrounds for the livestock showing, especially with the option available to have it online.

The shows are expected to be Aug. 4 through Aug. 7, with possible additional days pending schedule confirmations. 

In other action, the commissioners:

• Passed a resolution classifying tax forfeiture parcels for the 2020 sale and set prices for the parcels. 

• Placed Reid Peterson, maintenance worker on regular, full-time status.

• Placed Department of Human Services Accounting Supervisor Waylon Welvaert on regular, full-time status. 

• Voted to fill the vacancy of a truancy officer position. The person previously in the position has shifted to be in an adult supervision role.

• Accepted a grant contract agreement with Freeborn County Family Services and Children’s Mental Health Collaborative for about $109,000. 

Freeborn County Public Health Director Sue Yost said the county has received the grant for several years. 

• Transferred $20,000 from the county’s revenue fund to the insurance fund.