Big Sky Country State Fair organizers are turning their attention to planning the 2021 fair, after Gallatin County Commissioners voted Tuesday to cancel this summer’s event.
Fair Manager Dennis Voeller said the commission approved the recommendation of the Fair Board, which decided last week it wouldn’t be prudent to go on planning this year’s fete due to uncertainty over COVID-19 regulations.
“I would say it was one of the hardest decisions we’ve ever made and there were a lot of emotions,” Voeller said after the commission’s vote. “I’d have liked to be on the side to keep thing going, but in today’s world, it just wasn’t possible.”
Voeller said the county health officials couldn’t guarantee that by July 15 – the day the fair was slated to begin – Montana will have entered Phase 3 of Gov. Steve Bullock’s reopening plan, which would allow for large public gatherings. Because vendors need to know well in advance whether to order supplies and hire staff, the fair board couldn’t wait any longer to make a definitive decision.
“There’s only so much we can know, and they need to make decisions now,” confirmed Gallatin
City-County Health Department officer Matt Kelley.
“Mid-July seems like a heck of a long ways away, but we have a lot of things happening in early June that throw another set of variables in the works,” Kelley added. “We haven’t had cases for a while, and we’re all hoping we can keep that going, but there’s no way to know when you’re dealing with virus transmission.”
Voeller said the 4-H summer show will go on despite the cancellation, though exactly how it will look has yet to be determined. JaNaie Godin, 4-H agent for Gallatin County Extension,
said she and a group of 16 volunteers will being making plans in earnest this week for all contingencies – either a Phase 2 or Phase 3 situation, and even a Phase 1 should “things go backwards.”
Typically, just over 300 4-H youth participate in the fair, which she hopes still can be held on the Fairgrounds during what would have been fair weekend – July 15-19. If restrictions prohibit the public from coming out to see the kids in action, the show may be offered over some sort of virtual platform, she said.
Godin said she is gratified the community recognizes the value of 4-H endeavors and is supportive of its programs. And she is hopeful that despite the hiccups, club members will take away some additional lessons as they adapt to a modified event this year, including “finding a bright side, dealing with stress, and finding back-up ways to make things happen.”