The Kansas State Fair Board voted Monday to cancel the 2020 fair.


However, the board was interested in finding a way to safely hold livestock and 4-H events amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.


The decision to cancel came shortly after the board voted last week to continue with the fair. After the vote was announced, the board and staff received feedback from vendors and the community about challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.


"We appreciate the thoughtful consideration you gave to open the fair as safely as possible. After that, we heard from a number of vendors who were genuinely concerned," said fair manager Robin Jennison.


All Tickets To Be Honored in 2021


All gate admission tickets, packages and food tickets already purchased will be valid for the 2021 Kansas State Fair. Staff is currently working to reschedule the 2020 Nex-Tech Wireless Grandstand lineup. If rescheduled, those tickets also will be honored at next year’s Fair. How to obtain refunds will be announced soon.


More information will be on the Fair’s website - kansasstatefair.com - in coming days.


The 2021 Kansas State Fair is Sept. 10-19.


Cancellations


Roughly 50% of vendors had canceled, so if the fair were held with safe practices, it wouldn’t look like the Kansas State Fair, Jennison said.


Some vendors couldn’t put together a crew for 10 days, and others worried about delays with quarantines imposed after traveling state to state. Shortly after the board’s decision last week, Texas, Oklahoma and Nebraska fairs decided to cancel, so other vendors couldn’t feasibly mobilize just to come to Kansas without the Midwest circuit.


"While we knew this year’s Fair was going to be different, we realized we weren’t going to be able to provide the same annual tradition that Fairgoers have come to expect," said Fair Board President Harmon Bliss in a press release. "While we are heartbroken there will not be a Kansas State Fair this year, we want to make sure the Fair is on solid footing for another 100 years."


The first "official" Kansas State Fair was held Sept. 13-20, 1913. This is the first time in it’s history that the event has been canceled.


Board member Nick Ketzner suggested a modified, "throwback" fair for 2020, hearkening back to the first days of the fair when it was focused on livestock and 4-H events.


Jenn Galloway, competitive exhibits director, presented her recommendations for continuing livestock events. Her recommendations allow for social distancing, scheduling, financials and animal health and safety.


"There would be vet checks at the gates so animals won’t come in without being approved," Galloway said. "We have more than COVID going on with the horses."


The next issue the board hopes to solve is how to cover costs of the events.


Livestock plans


The Kansas State Fair will host special edition livestock shows starting Labor Day weekend.


The fair will have 4-H and FFA youth livestock competitions, plus open class livestock exhibitions, in September. These special contests showcase showmanship and hard work of all exhibitors while still maintaining a safe environment.


The board is also considering having youth static competitions. The board will reconvene Aug. 4 to gather more information.


Livestock events begin Thursday, Sept. 3, and continue for three weekends, ending Sunday, Sept. 20. Event rules will be modified.


Competitions include:


Grand Drive: FFA and 4-H youth from across the state compete to be the best of the best in this premier Kansas livestock competition. The Grand Drive is Sept. 11-13 and features the market beef, sheep, swine and goat shows. These shows are closed to outside spectators but can be viewed on Walton Webcasting. The event is sponsored by Midwest Ford and other great partnerships..


Deadline to enter the Grand Drive is July 15.


Champion Livestock Show: The Kansas State Fair is partnering with the Special Olympics Kansas to introduce a new event: the Champion Livestock Show. The competition takes place at 1:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 11.


Ten athletes will be selected by the Special Olympics and paired with 4-H or FFA members to show a meat goat. The athletes will have time to work with their mentor and animal the morning of the event. Open Range Trailer Sales and Services and Cimarron Trailers is the event sponsor. Key Apparel will provide T-shirts for participating competitors and mentor exhibitors. This show is closed to outside spectators but can be viewed on Walton Webcasting.


Mustang Days: Youths train untamed yearlings in the Mustang Beginnings Youth Challenge. They work to gentle the Bureau of Land Management wild horses over the summer then demonstrate their training skills. The event is Sept. 12-13.


Supreme Drive: The Supreme Drive recognizes the best bull and female of each breed in the open beef shows. The event is Sept. 19.


4-H Horse Show: This annual event will occur Sept. 17-20.


All shows will be closed to the public to help create a safe event. Entry deadline is July 15 for the 4-H/FFA Grand Drive and Aug. 15 for all open livestock shows.


Details, including rules and the full schedule of livestock events, are available at bit.ly/2020KSFLivestock. For more information, contact the Competitions Department at jenn.galloway@ks.gov or kerry.toews@ks.gov or call 620-669-3600.