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Five of Iowa’s 100 county fairs get underway this month, including Worth County on Wednesday

CRESCO — After last year’s pandemic-related cancellations, all of Iowa’s 100 county fairs are a go in 2021 and five will be held this month.

“Not to beat a dead horse about last year, but it was tough. This year, everybody’s back,” says Tom Barnes, executive director of the Association of Iowa Fairs. “…We’re hearing a lot of positive talk about people wanting to get back involved, be at the fair, help with the fair.”

Barnes says the “curve ball” of last year’s pandemic prompted fair managers to improvise. For example, many staged competitions for the livestock 4-H and FFA members raised last year.

“I believe the count was 85 or 86 fairs in Iowa did not happen at all, but did some sort of youth show-and-go type of event,” Barnes says. “…Early fairs in June was basically the guinea pigs of trying to make that happen and our later fairs learned by what the early fairs did correctly and did not do correctly.”

Barnes is also secretary of the Howard County Fair, which starts next week. Barnes says after years of emphasizing concerns about the spread of diseases among livestock, county fairs are being proactive about the human side as well.

“We still have the sprayers and the hand sanitizers and all that. We’ll be utilizing that kind of stuff here during our fair, spacing things out as best as we possibility can, but what’s really helped the fairs be able to kick off this year is the vaccination,” Barnes says. “…There were skeptics three or four months ago. Whether you believe in the vaccination or not, it did change the public’s perception of getting back into a norm.”

The Wapello and Worth County fairs start this Wednesday, June 16. The Linn, Jefferson and Howard County Fairs begin on June 23. There are 99 counties in Iowa, but 100 counties fairs since Pottawattamie County holds two — one in Council Bluffs and the other in Avoca.

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