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Kids plead for 'fair' decision to allow them to show their farm animals

In rural Illinois, families working hard to get their prized animals ready for county fairs say the state needs to consider the few COVID-19 cases in their county.

ALEDO, Ill. —

"Fairs are a time where kids, like me and my sisters, get to be judged on their animals and hard work for the year." 

Kaitlynn this year has started to raise show pigs, which she named Bonnie and Clyde, for the first time. 

Sheridan Hank, who has been showing cattle for 12 years, said the fairs are her family's livelihood. She says the fairs can be modified to accomodate for social distancing guidelines.

"At the county and state fair, it'd be all outside exhibits, so we wouldn’t be all packed together, we’d be outside."

"The barn is open, the show rink is open, so it’s never really super packed and contained," she added, and fairs could limit the number of visitors and crews.

"The state fair is a big, big deal," she said. Besides recognition for their work, the fairs gives kids an opportunity to connect across the agriculture industry. 

But it's also bringing dollars into rural communities. A study by the University Illinois Extension found that fairs statewide generate more than $170 million a year in spending.

"It’s a main revenue for the Mercer County Ag Society, who puts on the fair, it's’ their main event," said Mercer County Fair Board Member Wayne Franck. "It’ll be a huge loss for the local businesses that sell show supplies, sell the fuel to the people that come in." 

"A lot of heartbroke kids, all the revenue would decrease, all the gas stations, restaurants and stuff outside the fairgrounds," he said of a potential decision to cancel the Mercer County Fair scheduled for July 7.

The fair board could be making a decision as early as Tuesday, May 19, at its regular board meeting.

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