Saline County 4-H'ers do a quick pivot to attend county fair

  • Published: Friday, Aug. 14, 2020

SALINE COUNTY, Mo. – Saline County 4-H’er Audrey Tinoco was all set to compete in the fashion revue, demonstrations, building exhibits and poultry events this summer at the Saline County Fair. Then a family member tested positive for COVID-19, and their 14-day quarantine dashed plans to compete.

Nichole Gann, a Saline County 4-H alumna and volunteer in shooting sports and building exhibits, self-quarantined after exposure to a person with the virus. Even after her own test came back negative, she removed herself from the judging pool out of an abundance of caution.

But Saline County 4-H proposed virtual solutions that would let Audrey and Nichole participate while following public health and safety guidelines. The only catch? They had less than 48 hours to organize and make it all work.

Chelsea Corkins, MU Extension county engagement specialist in 4-H youth development, quickly drew up guidelines for Audrey’s video and image submissions.

“An important component of effective education is that we must meet our learners where they are at – whether physically, mentally or emotionally. This was our opportunity to put words into action,” Corkins said.

With Saline County Fair superintendents’ prompt approval of submission guidelines, Audrey was able to submit her outfits, demonstrations and building exhibits photos and videos by email. She used FaceTime live video to show her poultry entries. This allowed for real-time questions from the judge and participants, just as if she were there in person. Audrey’s persistence and 4-H innovation paid off: She qualified for state competitions in Fashion Revue, Egg Demonstration and Foods, and her duck entry won Grand Champion Waterfowl.

 “It was really cool to be able to do 4-H,” she said. “My mom had told me even though it wasn’t my fault I would not be able to do any of it this year because of our quarantine. I was really upset because I had worked really hard on my ducks, projects and my demonstrations. When my mom was told I could do it, just differently, I was so excited I couldn’t stop smiling!”

The chance to participate was particularly invaluable this year, said Audrey’s mother, Amanda Tinoco. “We have been trying to make the best of the COVID situation and try to keep things as normal as possible. Even though it has been difficult, 4-H has still been something stable for her that she has been able to keep doing just like past years. She really enjoys it!”

Gann, too, was able to participate virtually through a Zoom conference session, assisted by another 4-H volunteer, allowing real-time interactions with youths as they brought in their projects. In fact, some youths seemed to gravitate toward her as their judge, unfazed by the technology and thankful to see a familiar face.

“I am grateful Saline County found alternatives so youth could safely enjoy the fair,” Gann said. “Talking to the youth virtually encouraged them to describe their projects in greater detail, as I was experiencing their work through a screen. Even COVID couldn’t put a pause on positive youth development.”

Ultimately, Audrey’s final day of quarantine fell the day before the Premium Sale. Because her entry had placed via the FaceTime judging session, she was eligible to show in-person at the fair with her duck, newly named “Big Money.”

“This experience helped us see how Saline County 4-H can innovate further,” Corkins said. “We look forward to providing an inclusive environment to youth, including engaging those who have never before been actively involved in 4-H. We’d also like to thank the Saline County Fair Association for their willingness to rapidly adjust and use unfamiliar technologies for this event. Together, we met this unforeseeable challenge for our county’s youth.”

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Photos available for this release:
Audrey Tinoco poses with her prize-winning duck, Big Money.
Competing virtually but persuasively, Audrey Tinoco’s duck won Grand Champion Waterfowl at the Saline County fair, making Big Money eligible to compete at the State Fair.
Audrey Tinoco presents her prize-winning muffins via FaceTime at the Saline County fair.
Nichole Gann, seated, volunteers at the 4-H Shooting Sports National Championship in 2019.

Writer: Katherine Foran

Media Contact

Chelsea Corkins