butter cow-2017

In this 2017 photo, sculptor Sarah Pratt of West Des Moines touches up the butter cow during opening day of the Iowa State Fair. The cow is made of abut 600 pounds of low-moisture, pure cream Iowa butter behind a glass window on a wood, metal, wire and steel mesh frame. It is showcased in a 40-degree cooler. The cow measures about 5½ feet high and 8 feet long.

LINCOLN — The butter cow may be bawling at the news that the Iowa State Fair, one of the nation’s premier fairs, decided Wednesday to cancel its 2020 event because of COVID-19.

“We are heartbroken we can’t be together this August,” said a statement on the fair’s website. “We tirelessly analyzed all the unique traditions at the Iowa State Fair and believe it will be safer (to cancel) given the current COVID-19 situation.”

“The top priority of the Iowa State Fair has and always will be to protect the health and safety of fairgoers,” said Gary Slater, the general manager of the Iowa fair.

The fate of the Nebraska State Fair, which is scheduled to run Aug. 28 to Sept. 7, will be decided by July 1, according to Beth Smith, the head of the Nebraska State Fair Board.

Smith said that a COVID-19 “working group” that includes the mayor of Grand Island and the local public health director is scheduled for Thursday to gather more information about what might be possible, given the tougher social distancing rules still in effect in hard-hit Hall County.

“We’re looking at all the different scenarios,” she said. “But we have to abide by all of the guidelines.”

It may be possible to hold 4-H and FFA livestock events under current social distancing guidelines, given that kids have worked all year to prepare for the fair, Smith said. But shows would not only have to follow public health advice in Grand Island, but also be financially feasible, she said.

On Wednesday, the Iowa State Fair Board voted 11-2 to nix its 2020 event, which had been scheduled for Aug. 13-23.

State fairs in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Indiana also have been canceled, though fairs are still planned in some states, including South Dakota and Kansas.

The decision in Iowa was made now, about two months before the start of the fair, because of the extensive planning required for such an event, the Iowa State Fair website indicated.

The Iowa fair, which annually attracts about 1 million visitors, has been canceled five times in its history: in 1898 because of the World’s Fair in Omaha and the Spanish-American War, and from 1942-1945 because of World War II.

Any tickets purchased for this year’s Iowa State Fair can be used in 2021, or can be cashed in for a refund by contacting the Iowa State Fair. Concert ticket holders will also have refund options. Visit the website, iowastatefair.org, for more information.

In Iowa, “other possibilities” are being pursued for 4-H and FFA members to showcase their livestock and projects, the fair’s website indicated.

This report includes material from the Associated Press.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

Reporter - Regional/state issues

Paul covers state government and affiliated issues. He specializes in tax and transportation issues, following the governor and the state prison system. Follow him on Twitter @PaulHammelOWH. Phone: 402-473-9584.

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