13/06/2024 4:41 PM


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Youth Fair adapts to coronavirus pandemic | Coronavirus

BELTON — After making some changes, the shows will go on at the annual Bell County Youth Fair this weekend.

The eight-day event will once again be held this year at the Bell County Expo Center, 301 W. Loop 121 in Belton, with tweaks being made to maintain safety.

Cheri O’Braden, youth fair coordinator, said the fair this year is expected to see about 1,000 participants over the eight days. She said this number is a bit lower than previous years, but attributes that more to a normal variation in interest in the event.

Similar to many events this year, O’Braden said the fair will be taking measures to limit exposure to the coronavirus including requiring masks and the signing of a waiver.

“We are trying to limit the number of people in the building,” O’Braden said. “So the idea of this year’s show is they will check-in in the morning, they will show and then they will leave. We will not be holding any animals in the barn all week like we normally do.”

O’Braden said that, while the fair is trying to limit the number of visitors at one time this year, the fair would not be restricting the number of attendees. She said there is still a possibility of restrictions on attendance, but it would most likely be a last-minute arrangement if at all.

The event schedule at the fair will differ this year compared to previous years, with there being a better separation of each species’ competitions.

O’Braden said this separation will mean multiple competitions and competitors will not be in the same venue at once, lowering the number of concurrent visitors.

One of the big changes this year was the cancellation of several events that are hard to socially distance.

Canceled events include the exhibitors dance and barbecue, the hamburger supper, the Pee Wee Showmanship event and both the mini rodeo and the PRCA rodeo.

Along with cancellation of some events, the youth fair will not be allowing the setting up of food tables, so as to help with distancing.

The youth fair’s livestock auction will have a change this year, becoming a premium sale event.

O’Braden said that this change will mean that the ownership of the livestock will not change hands, with money bid on the animals still going to the participants.

“In years past, we have had the auction for the buyers to keep the animal if they want to, but this year that won’t be an option” O’Braden said. “If we have the option for the buyer to keep the animal, those animals have to stay in the barn all week long, which means the exhibitors have to come back and forth to the barn every day to feed and water those animals.”

The fair will not be the only activity going on at the Expo Center, with the event having to share some space with Bell County’s second-dose vaccination center.

James Stafford, spokesman for the county, said that the county does expect there to be some confusion between the two events going on at the same time.

Despite this, Stafford said the county is confident that the preparations it has made ahead of time will be enough to solve these problems.

“We are definitely aware of the youth fair and that has been a part of how we have made plans,” Stafford said. “The good news is that we planned ahead.”

O’Braden said she is sure that the Expo Center will be big enough for both organizations to host their activities safely.