CUSTER COUNTY—The Custer County Ag Society met for an hour and 45 minutes on Thursday, June 11 to discuss this year’s county fair, currently scheduled for July 24 through July 30, amid COVID-19.
Rodney Lamb was appointed to the board and a few minutes after calling the meeting to order, the board moved into executive session for about 25 minutes to discuss financial inconsistencies.
The majority of the meeting centered on the county fair and COVID-19 related Directed Health Measures (DHM), guidelines, restrictions, and also liability that would fall on the Ag Society and the fairgrounds. Will fair participants be able to hang out at the fairgrounds or simply show their exhibit and then leave? Will some exhibits need to be held virtually? Many questions were asked on Thursday night but very few answers were given pending the governor’s updated DHMs and the 4-H Council’s proposals.
Ag Society member Shawn Lehmkuhler said this “uncommon time” means “uncommon solutions might be the way to go.” President of the 4-H Council Jeff Witthuhn said they want to work together with the Ag Society.
Governor Pete Ricketts announced on Monday that 89 Nebraska counties will move into Phase 3 beginning June 22. Phase 3 includes increased capacities for indoor and outdoor gatherings, not to exceed 10,000 individuals. Indoor gatherings will be limited to 50 percent capacity, while outdoor gatherings will be limited to 75 percent capacity. Groups should be limited to eight people and those groups should be six feet apart.
According to a June 15 article by 1011Now, “plans for reopening to new capacity limits must be submitted to local health departments and approved for all indoor and outdoor venues which hold 500 or more individuals.”
Other questions included when will plans need to be submitted to the Loup Basin Public Health Department (LBPHD)? Will more volunteers be needed to take temperatures? Do people need to wear masks? Are the DHM rules feasible for all of the usual 4-H exhibits? How does liability insurance at the fairgrounds play into everything? LBPHD representative Amanda Jeffries tuned into Thursday’s meeting via Zoom and said masks are especially important when it is difficult to maintain social distance.
The county fair discussion was eventually tabled and will be addressed during a possible Ag Society special meeting later this week. Marla Stallbaumer and Casey Cooksley voted against tabling the discussion hoping to instead send a message to Custer County kids that they stand behind them, they encourage kids to stick with their projects, and that they will figure something out for this year’s fair.
The 4-H Council will meet on Tuesday, June 16 to hear proposals from the leaders of the fair event categories.
Jami Anderson and Matt Thomas presented a plan for the 50th annual Tuffy Winberg Free Pit BBQ. Anderson and Thomas said the plan for a drive thru BBQ has been approved by the LBPHD for an estimated 2,000-2,200 people.
On behalf of the 4-H Council, Chase Christen reported that Custer County 4-H has 450 members for 2020 supported by 89 volunteers. The June Jamboree was held virtually via YouTube with Summer 4-H Staff Member Audrey Foster in association with the Broken Bow Public Library’s Summer Reading Program. Christen said the year “2020” was left off of the awards and plaques that have been ordered for this year’s fair.
Christen and Extension Educator Troy Walz added that 50 gallons of hand sanitizer have been picked up from Lincoln, fair entries are due at the end of the month, and livestock IDs will arrive soon.
Also on Thursday night, Grounds Manager JJ Martin said he has been preparing for various roping events and barrel races, painting, and added gravel on the north road.
Administrator Michelle Nelson said the fairgrounds is providing signage and hand sanitizer for various events and asked the board if they would allow arena memberships to be extended two months following the COVID-19 fairgrounds closures. The board approved a motion to buy a new laptop for the Ag Society not to exceed $500.
The board also approved hiring two people to help Troy Walz and Colleen Peterson with setting up exhibits, cleaning, and working in the livestock office pending on how the fair is held.
Discussions on the crows nest and camper hook-ups were tabled. The possibility of hosting the high school rodeo at the fairgrounds came up along with the Mid-States Rodeo to be held in September. The board discussed that hosting the high school rodeo would be a great income but it is difficult to get volunteers for back-to-back rodeos and they are unsure of what the status of COVID-19 restrictions will look like in September. No decisions were made.