Modified Butler County Fair means these competitors get their once-a-year shot

Talawanda High School junior Kennedi Mondello was one of the top livestock winners at last year’s Butler County Fair. Mondello, 15, said the initial news the annual fair had been cancelled by state officials’ orders - due to the coronavirus - was “horrible.” But Mondello said she’s happy with the more recent news about the fair conducting modified livestock showings for children and teens.(Provided Photo/Journal-News)
Talawanda High School junior Kennedi Mondello was one of the top livestock winners at last year’s Butler County Fair. Mondello, 15, said the initial news the annual fair had been cancelled by state officials’ orders - due to the coronavirus - was “horrible.” But Mondello said she’s happy with the more recent news about the fair conducting modified livestock showings for children and teens.(Provided Photo/Journal-News)

It’s not the county fair she’s known since she was 12, but Kennedi Mondello and her blue-ribbon rabbits and chickens will gladly take it.

Officials with the Butler County Fair this week announced the once-cancelled event will be partially opened next month, including almost a full return of livestock showings by local youths like Mondello.

The previous state orders prompting the initial cancellation of the annual fair, which has operated since 1851, “was devastating,” said Mondello.

The Talawanda High School junior had competed in livestock showing and auctions – earning thousands of dollars toward her future education – for the last three years.

“Hearing the first news that I couldn’t show my rabbits and chickens was horrible,” she said.

But now the fair, which runs from July 26 through July 31, has announced not only will livestock showings by youth participants be allowed – though no auction sales of their animals or birds – but the general public will be allowed into the Hamilton fairgrounds to enjoy some parts of the annual event.

Doug Turner, president of the Butler County Fair Board, said earlier this week county health officials have approved a partial access for the public after 5 p.m. during fair week.

Being able to open some parts of the fair – there will be no amusement rides this season but food vendors and some games will be open - for limited hours will help lessen the financial loses, said Turner.

“It will help everybody to make some money and that will help everybody a lot,” he said.

“Right now funds for the 2021 fair are tight,” said Turner of the Hamilton-based fair.

One popular, grandstand area attraction will go on.

The fair’s demolition derby is now scheduled to be held on Friday evening of July 31, but social distancing will be maintained by using only half the seats in the grandstand.

Fans this year will also have the option of standing viewing from around the enclosed pen where cars crash into one another until only one is left as the winner.

Mondello, who last year won top prize in three livestock categories, said she is thrilled to have that part of the fair back.

So is fellow, teenage livestock contestant Justin Beckner.

The recent Talawanda graduate, who will start college at Miami University in August, thought the coronavirus had killed his last chance of showing his prize hogs at the fair.

“I’m very excited they are opening back up. And I’m especially happy for the younger kids who compete with their animals so they can experience the fair too,” said Beckner.

A modified schedule of the popular youth livestock showings at the fair will still take place but without general public access.

But Turner said fair officials are in negotiations to have the livestock shows broadcast on local cable TV or social media. There will be no in-person, livestock auctions – where youngsters and teens sell livestock they’ve raised.

Fair officials are setting up a donation program, where buyers and others interested in supporting the young livestock raisers can directly contribute money to the children via an online program.

Beckner said he understands the fluctuating decisions by fair officials, who are trying to balance operating the fair while helping to maintain public health during the coronavirus.

“Unfortunately they (fair officials) had to go back and forth on whether to open,” he said.

“But I think they made the right calls when they made them.”