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Fair days come to Belmont County

ST. CLAIRSVILLE ­– With activities scaled during the first days of the Belmont County Junior Fair, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and state mandates, 4-H members were out in force as it began, showing animals they have worked to raise.

Loudspeakers regularly remind participants that face coverings are required, and hand-sanitizer stations and social distancing signs are readily visible. Junior fair members were observed Tuesday approaching unmasked individuals and asking them to wear their masks, or offering to provide them. The announcers reminded all listeners that mandates for junior fairs came from Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine.

There were fewer people in the show barn arena, but the encouragement of relatives and friends sought to make up for the lack of fewer people able to pack the stands.

The fair’s royal court was crowned Monday, and royals were on hand around the fairgrounds Tuesday.

Nathan Yost is the junior fair king; Megan Garrison the junior fair queen; Emmeka Showalter the duke; Kaylin Burress duchess; Gage Phillips prince; and Madison Tingler princess.

“I think it’s definitely been a challenge this year,” Garrison said. “The royalty application and interviews were different. …

“The shows are spaced out a little differently, but our senior fair board and our junior fair board have definitely worked hard to make our Belmont County Fair happen this year.”

Garrison added the junior fair board and staff are taking no chances and are regularly reminding all present at the fairgrounds west of St. Clairsville to comply with state guidelines.

“That way they get to display and showcase what they’ve worked so hard for all year,” Garrison said.

“I definitely feel that coming to the fair is quite a different experience this year,” Faith Galavich, first runner up for queen, said. “I’m extremely proud we get to have a fair this year, and I think we’re extremely fortunate, though it is different. We’re doing our best to ensure we have masks on and we’re social distancing as best we can.”

She added there has been some adjustment as the royalty continued their duties such as handing out ribbons while observing the pandemic precautions.

“The big thing is for our field days. We cannot have it in person. We’re trying to do it virtually this year. It’s a different experience, but we’ll be able to reach more youth in our county because we can send out videos and use social media,” Galavich said.

The junior fair board is also posting photographs of animal showings and judging on social media.

“Two months ago, I was very doubtful that we would even have a Belmont County Fair. I do think we’re extremely fortunate,” she said. “I do think the in-person support is extremely less because we have to limit our numbers. … They’re still supporting us in other factors like sponsorships and just virtually.”

“We’re doing pretty fair considering the circumstances,” Greg Melman of Bellaire, groundskeeper and board member, said, adding he could not speculate how many people will be participating overall by the end.

Orville Simpson of Belmont had his mask in place and was among those in the show barn, waiting to see his great-grandson Keenin White of the St. Clairsville area show his sheep.

“If that’s what it takes to slow this thing down, it’s about the only way to go. At least they’re letting the kids participate. They’re following the rules,” he said. “They work with them animals for several months getting ready for this. Having a lot of expense in them.”

The fair will continue through Sept. 12. More information can be found on social media at https://www.facebook.com/events/2754167984870017/

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