URBNA, Ill. – In 2020, more than 400 Illinois 4-H competitive events, exhibitions, and shows went virtual, providing a positive youth development experience while protecting our members, volunteers, and staff. While the 2021 4-H exhibition season will be shaped by the ongoing impact of the coronavirus pandemic, we are working hard to find solutions that balance the safety of our communities with the benefits our youth gain from participating in face-to-face judging experiences.

For summer 2021, we are preparing for the possibility of returning to in-person events, based on local conditions at that time and in conjunction with current IDPH guidelines.

As the youth development program of University of Illinois Extension, our events must abide by the guidelines of both campus and the Illinois Department of Public Health. As we evaluate options and apply innovative thinking to our event management processes, it is important to note that Illinois 4-H will continue to follow all relevant public health guidelines.

We’ve learned a great deal since the summer of 2020 and we believe there may be a path forward that will allow us to step back into in-person exhibitions. Illinois 4-H staff are diligently researching and designing a variety of program formats and structures. Our goal is to provide options so that each county can make their own program decisions based on current local conditions and the latest IDPH guidelines.

New safety protocols will play a significant role in our return to in-person programming, so we ask for your help in preparing your family and your community for what that may look like. Specific details will be announced later this spring and will reflect the best practices in place for managing COVID-19.

By working in partnership with the local public health department and other organizations in our communities, we are committed to our youth participating in one of the hallmark experiences of being a 4-H member – 4-H exhibitions and shows, whatever format that may take. We remain committed to pacing our decision-making process in coordination with available data and safety protocols, but we are vetting scenarios that include a return of in-person judging for 4-H exhibitions in summer 2021.

Source: Dr. Lisa Diaz, 4-H Assistant Dean & Director, University of Illinois Extension, lbdiaz@illinois.edu

Writer:  Carissa Nelson, Media Communications Manager, University of Illinois Extension, 4-H, carissa7@illinois.edu

About 4-H: Illinois 4-H helps youth learn skills for living. University of Illinois Extension provides 4-H programs in every county in Illinois. Illinois 4-H impacts the lives of 200,000 youth each year through sustained learning clubs and groups and short-term programming.

About Extension:  Illinois Extension leads public outreach for University of Illinois by translating research into action plans that allow Illinois families, businesses, and community leaders to solve problems, make informed decisions, and adapt to changes and opportunities.