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Extension continues transition to online webinars, 4-H shows, events

Monday, May 4, 2020
photo of carnival

URBANA, Ill. – As Illinois residents contemplate the impact of the coronavirus health pandemic on summer plans, University of Illinois Extension has released updated guidelines for Extension sponsored events and activities. The new guidelines continue to focus on the safety of event participants while recognizing that these activities support the health and vitality of communities across Illinois.

Following the direction of the Illinois Department of Public Health and the University of Illinois, Extension has developed a phased approach to deciding about event formats for summer 2020 and beyond. The timeline provides structure and certainty to staff, program attendees, 4-H members and their families, partner organizations, and the public.

In-person events sponsored by Illinois Extension through July 5 have been canceled or transitioned to an online delivery format. Decisions about events beyond July 5 will be publicly communicated by the first day of the month before.

  • Today: events through July 5 cancelled or transitioned to an online format
  • June 1: decision shared regarding July 6 – July 31 events
  • July 1: decision shared regarding August 1-15 events
  • July 15: decision shared regarding August 16-31 events
  • August 1: decision shared regarding September 1-30 events

Additionally, all Illinois Extension camps, including day and overnight camps, are canceled through August 15.

“Our mission is to support the welfare of families, communities, and small businesses across the state,” says Shelly Nickols-Richardson, associate dean and director of Illinois Extension. “Tough decisions today protect the safety and well-being of our Illinois families going forward, so that we can all safely return to the work of sustaining our communities and economy as soon as we can.”

Extension’s updated event policy provides clarity for summer 4-H shows and exhibitions. All 4-H general project and 4-H livestock shows and exhibitions scheduled through July 5 will move online to a virtual exhibition platform called FairEntry. Decisions about 4-H shows scheduled for July 6-31 will be announced by June 1. This solution provides clarity for Extension staff, 4-H members, and volunteers that will allow them to move forward with plans for summer events, scheduled to begin in just over a month.

“4-H shows play a critical role in the 4-H model and we wanted to avoid canceling them outright,” says Lisa Diaz, Illinois Extension assistant dean and director of Illinois 4-H. “Over the past several weeks, we evaluated a variety of alternatives so that a contingency plan would be ready if in-person events weren’t an option. We are confident that virtual exhibitions through FairEntry are the best solution for allowing 4-H members to participate in this important activity, even during the incredibly unusual circumstances created by the current public health situation.”

4-H members will upload photos and other materials to the virtual platform as evidence of the skills and knowledge gained while working on their projects. The system allows judges to review each project and provide vital learning feedback for exhibitors. The virtual system also allows judges to select the top exhibits, including those that qualify for exhibition at the Illinois State Fair.

Illinois 4-H staff are updating project guidelines, developing support documentation for the new system, and creating training resources for volunteer judges and 4-H exhibitors.

More information about 4-H shows is available in a detailed set of frequently asked questions. 4-H members will receive guidance from staff and club leaders about how to use the new system and how to prepare for a successful virtual project exhibition, Diaz says.