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Staying safe at the fair

There’s not much about life in Eastern Ohio that can be considered “normal” right now, so it likely is a relief to families who participate in 4-H and farming that a portion of the Belmont County Fair is set to go ahead in spite of the pandemic.

Gov. Mike DeWine a few weeks ago ordered that only the junior fair portions of events could be held this year. That means the usual onslaught of food vendors, carnival rides and games will not appear at the fairgrounds this year. Instead, the focus of the event — scheduled Sept. 8-13 — will be on animal projects. Fair board leaders have said they expect 400-500 youths to participate, down from 700 in a more typical year.

Fair officials are planning carefully to take precautions to help stem the spread of COVID-19. They told county commissioners this week that animal showings and sales will require masks and social distancing. Sanitizing stations will be available throughout the grounds, and seating areas will be sanitized between shows. And fair board members plan to set a good example by wearing masks throughout the fair.

In addition, events are being scheduled so that state curfews are met and youngsters and their families can get home early.

Crystal Antill, 4-H program assistant, said some youth have decided not to present their projects this year. In fact, baking, canning and arts and crafts projects will not be shown, since they normally are displayed at indoor venues.

All of this sounds promising, especially since one of the things we know about the new coronavirus is that it tends to have less severe effects on children and young adults. That does not mean, though, that the fair participants should throw caution to the wind.

We commend fair officials for taking the safety steps they have planned, but we remind parents that they need to make sure their children are truly prepared to protect themselves, their friends and family members while taking part in the fair.

We urge parents of fair participants to have a serious talk with their children before the event gets underway. Moms and dads should remind their sons and daughters just how serious a COVID-19 infection could possibly be. They should explain and review all of the best ways to avoid infection, including keeping at least 6 feet apart from others (even close friends and potential love interests where teens are involved), washing hands frequently, wearing masks in public and avoiding crowded, enclosed spaces.

With the proper precautions, the junior fair should be a safe and productive activity for the youngsters who have worked hard all year to care for their animals and sharpn their own skills. We wish them well.

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