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What a canceled State Fair means for 4-H kids

Minnesota 4-H is a part of University of Minnesota Extension, which said Friday they were working "to create alternate experiences for 4-H’ers."

FALCON HEIGHTS, Minn. — The State Fair's cancellation is heartbreaking for many families, but maybe especially so for kids in 4-H, who have spent many hours preparing animals and projects for the fair. 

Minnesota 4-H is a part of University of Minnesota Extension, which said Friday they were working "to create alternate experiences for 4-H’ers" now that the fair has been canceled. 

"We know this is particularly hard for 4-H youth and their families, and we will continue to extend support to them. In the coming weeks, we will be sharing our plans for ways we can create new experiences. It won’t replace the Fair, but we are committed to meaningful programming," wrote Dean Beverly Durgan in a statement.

University of Minnesota Extension said about 5,600 kids take part in 4-H over the 12 days of the fair. 

Brooke Polzin, of Darwin, Minnesota, had hoped to be one of them. 

"I was very disappointed it was cancelled," she said. "It's really sad, because that's the one time that I get to get together with all of my friends that are all over the state."

This could have been Brooke's second year showing cattle at the fair. Last year, she received a purple ribbon. 

"It's an event like no other in terms of youth programs in the state of Minnesota," said Brooke's father, Chris Polzin, who owns a cattle breeding business in Darwin and evaluates livestock at county fairs. 

Credit: Furnished by the Polzin Family
The Polzin family, after Brooke won a purple ribbon at the 2019 Minnesota State Fair.

4-H'ers who compete at the fair can sometimes land scholarships. The Minnesota Livestock Breeders' Association (MLBA) estimates they gave out $65,000 in scholarships during last year's fair. 

MLBA Secretary-Treasurer Steve Pooch told KARE 11 that, despite the fair's cancellation, they hope to give out scholarships this year, too. But just how that will happen, he said, is a "good question." 

Pooch said about half the scholarship funding comes from donors, but the other half comes from the livestock auctions held at the fair. A canceled fair means those auctions won't be taking place in any "normal" format. 

"We'll have to find another way for them to exhibit those livestock, whether it's a virtual show or some other format," said Polzin.

Pooch said the MLBA is working on a plan for scholarships and reaching out to donors. 

Livestock auctions at the fair aren't just important for scholarships, they can land 4-H'ers thousands of dollars. That money can be used for things like college, but it also helps pay for the expense of caring for their animals. 

"They invest a lot of resources to get these market animals," said Polzin. "It takes a lot to get [the animals] prepared and they look forward to that."

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