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East Idaho State Fair prioritizes 4-H and public safety

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BLACKFOOT, Idaho (KIFI/KIDK) - The intent of the East Idaho State Fair this year is to keep the fairgrounds as localized as possible to prevent the risk of people from all over Idaho, as well as other states, congregating at the fair and potentially spreading the virus back home in their own communities. 

The East Idaho State Fair is not charging admission prices in an attempt to attract people from local areas to still come out and enjoy the limited fair this year.

There won’t be as many attractions that typically draw in people who have to travel to Blackfoot for the East Idaho State Fair.

There is also free parking available in the carnival lot.

East Idaho State Fair general manager Brandon Bird says they are grateful for the perfect weather and the opportunity to open during the pandemic. He says many times throughout the summer, he was very unsure if the State Fair would happen this year. 

Bird says the greatest change the fair has made this year to accommodate the public’s health and safety is the scaling down of regularly planned Fair events and amenities.

The fair is much smaller this year with only 15 concessionaires and some 4-H activities still taking place. The Gem State Classic Pro Rodeo will take place on Monday and Tuesday night.

“We chose activities that we felt were part of the backbone of our traditions and youth programs are a very important part of what we do here at the Fairgrounds,” Bird said. “We did not want to see this year go to waste for all those kids who’ve worked so hard to do their 4H projects and work with their animals.”

There are limited activities taking part inside any of the Fair buildings with most events and concessions all centrally located outdoors. Bird says the Fair typically hosts 70 concessionaires and is now being reduced to only 15 vendors.

“That’s to spread everybody out and give room for people to be able to get their Fair food and not be over the top of each other,” Bird said. 

The concessionaires are all based within the region. Fair Food vendors are further spread throughout the grounds with hand sanitations stations available throughout the fairgrounds. 

Bird says this will not be a money maker fair this year and the main attempt is to support local youth groups.

“The financial impact to the community is probably the hardest thing," Bird said. "The fair generates somewhere between six and eight million dollars in commerce over its nine days usually. That won’t happen this year."

Bird says the fair usually generates about $300,000 to $400,000 in profits that go toward supporting local youth groups and he feels this is the hardest loss the fair is dealing with this year.

“We will be back stronger next year, for sure, and so we’ll enjoy the sun and make the best of what we’ve got for this year,” Bird said.

Kinzie Williams will be part of 4-H’s live roping event at the East Idaho State Fair this year. She says 4-H participants have to practice a few months before any event to prepare their horses.

“I like roping a lot and I’m happy that I placed into going to state,” Kinzie said.

Kinzie says she feels tremendous community support due to the fact that the fair isn’t allowing most other traditional fair events.

She says 4-H is very enjoyable because she gets to spend time with her friends. She says there aren’t a lot of rules during 4-H which allows the kids to have fun.

Kinzie says events like the State Fair encourage her to practice her roping.

“It definitely helps you strive to be better than your first fair,” Kinzie said.

Iylie Williams will be competing in 4 H dummy roping, sation and team sorting this year.

“I’m glad that we were allowed to do it because this was the best year I’ve ever had,” Iylie said.

She says she’s glad they don’t have to wear masks while riding their horses. Iylie says 4-H helps her improve her skills when working with her horse and decreases her fears of riding horses she’s unfamiliar with. 

Oakley Adams will be dummy roping and stationing for 4-H this year. She said she wasn’t able to come to the State Fair last year because she placed 3rd.

“It’s kind of weird cuz of COVID around, but I’m just happy we get to do it," Adams said.

Adams says practicing with her clubs are the funnest part of 4 H. “It’s fun to see the kids that have horses that struggle, work with their horse and do better,” Adams said.

She says dummy roping for 4-H also helps her prepare for rodeos and learn new events such as team roping. 

Roger Marcussen says he came down to Blackfoot to support the fair. He says the pandemic should not prevent people from enjoying the Labor Day weekend and our beautiful state.

“It’s been a wonderful event the last 30 to 40 years,” Marcussen said. “At least they’re making an attempt to kind of bring people into a joyous opportunity, especially support for the kids so they can show their animals.”

Bird says plans are underway for events to invite to the 2021 East Idaho State Fair. He says they plan to announce the lineup to the public early next year. 

Preparations for the Eastern Idaho State Fair look vastly different during a pandemic. Director of Southeastern Idaho Public Health, Maggie Mann, says the changes put into place have reduced the likelihood of people contracting the virus at the State Fair. She says East Idaho State Fair’s new plans for opening this year have the full support of Southeastern Idaho Public Health. 

“The way they’re doing it now is a much more low risk, it’s not no risk, but certainly much lower compared to if it had been a tradition fair," Mann said. "If you love the Fair, go enjoy it. Please follow precautions and hopefully the fair will be back to normal next year.” 

Any large gathering of people has the potential to spread the virus and this is why people need to follow safety precautions such as social distancing. Blackfoot saw a decrease in active cases for COVID-19, with only 36 active cases of COVID-19 on August 26. They have stayed close to that range with no alarming spikes.

Blackfoot / Idaho / Local News / News
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Chelsea Briar

Chelsea is a reporter and producer for Local News 8 and KIDK Eyewitness News 3.

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