MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — Citing concerns surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, the annual Berkeley County Youth Fair will take place completely online.
The Berkeley County Youth Fair Association released a statement late Thursday saying, in part, they have made the decision after discussions with local and state health officials.
“These are uncharted times that our country is facing which results in many unknowns at this time. The BCYF’s first priority is the safety and health of our youth exhibitors, parents, volunteers, vendors, and community and we must plan accordingly based on what information is available currently. The advanced planning required for all of the events that are a part of the fair necessitates that this decision to be made sooner rather than later.”
Michael Withrow is an Extension Agent with the WVU Extension service and involved with the county’s 4-H program. He expressed disappointment, but also optimism, during Panhandle Live on MetroNews affiliates WEPM & WCST.
“I feel the same way the kids do. When it first came out, I was not the happiest camper. But, when you look at the grand scheme of things we’re still giving these kids the opportunity to come together and show their projects off. It’s just in a different format.”
A fair, typically held in August, has been a part of the Eastern Panhandle for over 100 years. The first recorded fair was in the summer of 1916.
Withrow looks at the changes surrounding COVID-19 as a lesson for youth.
“We want them to be mindful and prideful that we can overcome tough things like this. There are a lot of counties around us that are saying flat out ‘well, we’re not having any type of fair’. While this is a new platform and none of us have experience with it, there is a dedicated group of adults working to ensure that we can still have the exhibits shown.”
Since the Thursday announcement, fair organizers have received dozens of questions about how the new format will work. Changes could include online livestock auctions, craft exhibitions and performances.
‘We are still working on exactly what exhibitors will upload, what their videos might look like and what their project pictures might need to be,” Withrow said. “But there are a lot of people working to ensure that this will be a success in some way.”