CIRCLEVILLE, Ohio (WCMH) – When the Pickaway County Fair opens Saturday, it will do so without the annual poultry show.
On June 2, the Ohio Department of Agriculture canceled all live bird exhibitions in the state for year. The ban is an aggressive move to protect Ohio’s $2.3 billion poultry industry from the avian flu.
The deadly virus has ravaged poultry-producing states, including Indiana.
“One of the ways avian influenza spreads is by direct contact with contaminated materials coming from other infected birds,” said State Veterinarian Dr. Tony Forshey. “This means that exhibitions, auctions, and swap meets where birds are co-mingling pose a high risk of unintentionally spreading this disease.”
But the fair is more than showing their projects
Monday and Tuesday about 800 4-H participants exhibited what they’ve learned during the “Skillathon” inside the fairgrounds’ 4-H building.
It was an important moment for the more than 100 members that had planned to show poultry projects.
“They do station to station and their going to show us what they learned about parts, about breeds, about medication labels,” said Joy Sharp, Extension Educator, 4-H Youth Development. “And then 4-H is about interviewing. So one of the things that we are really big about is making sure our kids learn interview skills.”
Georgia Drost planned to show fancy chickens for the eighth year in a row. The 16-year-old was vacationing in France when she learned of the poultry ban.
“It is kind of disappointing because you put in a lot of work. But I’m also kind of grateful because I don’t want my flock to be infected with the flu,” said Georgia.
After the Ohio Department of Agriculture announced the ban, fair boards scrambled to find ways to make sure the poultry projects had their day in the barns.
“We are asking them to bring in a four by six photo of themselves with their animal,” said Sharp. “And we’ve got an area we will be setting up in the barns with lots of information about the poultry industry, both meat and egg production.”
Georgia, like many 4-H members, has another project ready for the ring.
“I’m also taking a horse project. So just because we dont’ have poultry doesn’t mean we don’t have things to do at the fair,” said Georgia.