Two-part Venango fair in works

The Venango County Fair will go on this August, but there will be some tweaks.

Fair Board members voted this week to move ahead with a two-part fair. One will focus on livestock and 4-H and the other will be geared toward the pulling and bashing of tractor pulls and demolition derbies.

“If we can’t do what we want, we’re going to have to improvise,” Fair Board president Brad Deeter said Friday.

The Livestock Round-Up will be held the week the fair was initially scheduled – Aug. 3-8.

The second half, which the fair board is calling the Venango County Motorsports Weekend, is tentatively scheduled Aug. 28-30.

That weekend could be moved further into fall should the county regress in Gov. Tom Wolf’s color-coded reopening plan, Deeter said.

“Everything is subject to change, that’s the one thing we stress,” said Deeter.

The Livestock Round-Up, which will be something of an abbreviated version of the fair, will look very similar to past fairs but will include a few adjustments.

Fair-goers should expect regulations to be in place on the amount of people allowed on the fairgrounds at once.

“We can and we will shut the gate down if we feel we have too many people on the grounds,” Deeter said.

Deeter also said there will be no entertainment during the Livestock Round-Up week.

Another aspect that could be different will impact the exhibitors.

Deeter said only Venango County residents or those who have exhibited at the fair within the last two years will be allowed to enter this year.

Class sizes may be smaller than average, and during shows the amount of people allowed in the ring at one time will be limited.

Deeter said show audiences could also be restricted to immediate family members.

“After each show we’re going to decontaminate the entire building,” Deeter said.

But it could be more than just social guidelines the 4-Hers are up against the year.

Deeter said the Penn State Extension – the body that oversees 4-H – initially postponed all 4-H activities until Oct. 1. That decision was then overturned and Penn State Extension announced it would make a final decision by June 30.

“We need to start now, we can’t wait until June 30,” said Deeter.

If Penn State Extension does decide to postpone 4-H activities, Deeter said those who choose to participate in the fair would be recognized as “Venango County youth.”

If 4-Hers are allowed to showcase their projects as normal, Deeter said the fair board will work with Penn State Extension to make every bit count.

The good news for all involved though is one of the most popular events of the fair, the livestock auction, will go ahead as planned – with a few tweaks of course.

Deeter said the auction may have to take place on the grandstands with exhibitors leading their animals through the pulling track while audience members adhere to social distance guidelines.

Livestock auctions are particularly important for 4-H members who participate in “market projects” or those that raise an animal specifically to sell at auction.

“This is a project they’ve purchased,” said Deeter. “They’ve been feeding, working, training these animals for almost 11 months, all in preparation for this week.”

Deeter said selling these animals in a situation like a county fair livestock auction is almost guaranteed to be the only way they’ll make money.

At a regular auction, Deeter said “after you put the feed and work into it, you’re not even breaking even.”

It’s at county fair auctions that local businesses pay well-above market price for these animals as a way to not only advertise but also support the next generation of food producers.

The majority of the time, the money made from selling a project at auction will either go toward buying the next year’s project, paying back loans on that animal, or even toward college funds.

“It could be be very discouraging (to lose money on a project,)” said Deeter.

Making sure projects go to auction isn’t the only reason the fair board found it so important to have this year’s fair.

“We feel right now our kids are suffering more than anybody … We need to do at least one thing that these kids can go out and enjoy,” Deeter said.

“We are here for the youth of the county,” he said.