Amid pandemic and wild weather, fair still a success
It was far from a “normal” fair and it was a lot more work for organizers, but according to fair board president Kayla Kafka, the 2020 Phillips County Fair was 100% worth it.
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, many fairs and festivals in the area have been either completely canceled or severely limited in their events, so Phillips County residents were extremely grateful that a local fair could be held July 21-26 at the fairgrounds in Holyoke.
“The health department was awesome to work with,” said Kafka, in addition to a shoutout to the Phillips County commissioners. “We could not have done this if we didn’t have their support.”
And even though it wasn’t a normal fair, she said the 2020 Phillips County Fair was still a great one.
Social distancing and masks were encouraged, sanitizer stations were set up, and other rules and regulations were taken into account when planning for the fair. “Everybody did their part to make it as safe as possible,” said Kafka.
She was very pleased that all of the livestock shows were livestreamed on the fair’s Facebook page as an option for out-of-town friends and family or for those who were not comfortable attending in person. Saturday’s junior livestock sale was also broadcast online with an option for virtual bidding, as well.
The carnival that was originally scheduled for the fair was not able to come, but the fair board improvised and offered a kids activity zone on Friday and Saturday, including a mechanical bull.
Another change was that the Friday barbecue was offered in to-go boxes for pick-up in front of the event center. Kafka said some people noted they were pleased that the portable dinner could be taken to the park, the midway, inside the event center or even taken home. About 175-200 people were served, which was down a little from traditional barbecue numbers but not a surprise to the fair board.
The Thrashers Rocky Mountain oyster feed Wednesday evening brought in a decent crowd, and Kafka said community members helped out the softball team’s fundraiser by purchasing the leftover food.
A few events were canceled due to COVID-19 regulations, including the Thrasher’s cornhole tournament, a Dutch oven cookoff, the Orphan Grain Train brat feed and the Jolly Dozen FCE Club salsa contest.
The rabbit show had to be canceled, not because of COVID-19 but due to the highly contagious and fatal rabbit hemorrhagic disease detected in Colorado.
The Wednesday barrel racing competition was rescheduled due to muddy conditions in the outdoor arena. It will be held Saturday, Aug. 8, with exhibitions at 8 a.m. and the main racing at 10 a.m. in the pavilion.
It also rained late Thursday afternoon, leaving the arena quite muddy for the ranch rodeo, bronc riding and mutton bustin’, but the rodeo went on as planned and Kafka was especially pleased with the good crowd and good participation at the nonticketed event.
Another storm rolled through town Saturday just before the start of the Bulls Gone Wild! event in the outdoor arena. Even after a delay, Kafka said, a normal-sized crowd turned out for the bull riding, bullfighting and mutton bustin’.
She said the beer garden and music also drew a good crowd after the nighttime entertainment Friday and Saturday.
Sunny Ledfurd entertained a crowd Friday evening, and Kafka said that while the style of music didn’t please everyone, others still enjoyed the concert.
She was also pleased that Tuesday’s team roping event brought in more participants than were expected.
A new event — Saturday’s pet show put on by Tuxedo Paws — was also very well received, said Kafka.
The “Barn in the USA” parade on Interocean Avenue earlier that day was a highlight for the community, with good numbers in both parade entries and spectators. Gale and Pat Wiebers served as grand marshals. One change was that the bleachers were not set up at the courthouse lawn due to COVID-19 restrictions.
The fair concluded Sunday morning with a church message provided by Bryan Kroeger in the pavilion. It was also broadcast through the fairgrounds speakers so that those who were cleaning up could listen as well.
Browse through this edition of the Enterprise for lots of photos from the Phillips County Fair, and look for a keepsake edition with complete 4-H and open class results in the Aug. 13 edition.