With county fairs set to begin in June, some set contingency plans

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Inside its 87 counties, Minnesota hosts 93 county fairs over the summer.

Norman County hosts one of the first, starting June 24.

"If we still have the shelter in place, there won’t be a county fair," said Don Merkens, president of the Norman County Fair.

Merkens says already the fair won’t host anything related to 4H, as 4H gatherings and activities have been put on hold until June 30 due to COVID-19.

"It would be awful different to have the 4H building empty during the fair," he said.

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He’s hopeful they can make some concessions for the 4H programs.

"Whether it’s a virtual livestock show where kids take recordings and we still have a judge come in and look at them online or an achievement day like some of the other fairs are talking about," Merkens described.

Merkens is also concerned about the carnival that brings games and entertainment.

Many are stuck in the south unable to travel due to stay at home restrictions.

"Between 4H and the carnival, those are two of the bigger draws that we have," he said. "So we could do it without one or the other, but both being gone, it would be really hard to pull off."

Steve Storck, with the Minnesota Federation of County Fairs, says fairs around the state are working on contingency plans.

"Maybe there will only be a couple of food vendors at some of the fairs, and maybe there will be no grandstand shows," he shared.

Whether they’re supposed to open in June, July or August, counties are hopeful they’ll be able to put on their fairs, even knowing this year just won’t be the same.

County fairs need at least a month’s notice to get things going, and for some of these fairs, that deadline is approaching in the next few weeks.