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Northwest Washington Fair cancellation leaves big impact on youth participants

Organizers hope to create another way for youth organizations like 4-H and FFA to showcase animals and sell the livestock they raised for the fair.

LYNDEN, Wash. — The Northwest Washington Fair in Lynden is canceled for 2020 due to coronavirus concerns.

Some community members said this decision will cost a lot for those who invested time, energy and money into the fair, including families who are involved in 4-H and FFA.

Whatcom County 4-H is more than just a club for its members.

“It’s really kind of taught me the meaning of family and perseverance,” Whatcom County 4-H member Maren Carr said.

Members of 4-H spend a year preparing for the Northwest Washington Fair.

“That six days of August, for a lot of kids, is just the accumulation of their year. It’s like, ‘Oh we get to go to the fair and then summer is over,’” said Kym VanMersbergen, superintendent of 4-H Horse Division in Whatcom County.

This year, members fear their 12 months of preparation and hard work will go to waste.

“Heartbreaking is kind of one of the words to I guess sum it up,” VanMersbergen said.

The fair board voted to cancel the 2020 fair at the urging of the Whatcom County Health Department.

The cancellation means no horse shows or livestock sales for 4-H.

“It’s really unfortunate for our livestock kids," VanMersbergen said. "They feed it and condition it and train it and then they look forward to that livestock sale that happens at the fair to recoup that money."

The CEO of the Northwest Washington Fair, Chris Pickering said this was a big consideration when they made the decision to cancel the fair.

“It’s absolutely top of mind for us, that’s why I actually already have a meeting on my calendar with local 4-H leaders, where we’ll be discussing a virtual livestock show,” he said.

Carr is a senior in high school and this was her last year to participate in 4-H. The early end of her 4-H career is devastating, but she said it's for the best.

“My sports seasons have been canceled, I don’t get to walk at graduation, I don’t get to do all of these things, but if we’re doing the right thing it could be so much better than what’s happening right now,” Carr said.

The fair board is now focused on reopening in 2021.

“The fair does make up 80% of our annual revenue, but our board was very wise and set aside both operational and long-term reserves. So, we’re maybe unique in the fair industry that we’re going to be OK, we’re going to make it through to next year,” Pickering said.

All tickets sold for the 2020 fair are being fully refunded.

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