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A group of Gallatin County 4-H participants and volunteers unloaded trailers of pigs and herded them into pens at the Bozeman fairgrounds on Monday.

The pigs’ arrival marked what would have normally been the beginning of the annual weeklong fair. But the fair has been canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Traditionally, the 4-H exhibition is part of the fair, which attracts thousands of guests and includes demonstrations, carnival rides, food stands and musical performances. This year, many of the fairgrounds buildings sit empty and the only activity is that of 4-H participants and their families.

4-H events are scheduled through Sunday and are closed to the public.

The livestock auction — the main and only public event — begins at 5 p.m. Friday and will occur in-person at the Bonanza Barn and online through a virtual platform. Information about the online bidding is available on the Gallatin County Extension website.

“Our kids have been working since November to raise local, quality food and learn to care for livestock,” said 4-H Agent JaNaie Godin. “This is the culmination of all they’ve worked for.”

About 280 4-H kids will participate in this week’s events. Some are camping with their families in the fairgrounds parking lot as they have in previous years. Others are arriving for their events, which include horse showmanship, dog obedience shows and displays of poultry, cattle and goats.

On Monday, participants were brushing and feeding their pigs. Three gallons of chocolate milk and a box of glazed donuts sat on the straw strewn floor in one barn.

A few kids tacked up signs displaying photos of their pigs, including one styled like a movie poster for “The Adventure of Sherlock Hams.”

Godin said Gallatin County Extension, which oversees the 4-H program, has taken precautions, such as encouraging masks, to limit the spread of COVID-19. Only a few people were wearing face coverings on Monday morning. A sign was posted on a barn gate to remind people to practice social distancing and alternate rows of the bleachers were blocked off to keep people 6 feet apart.

The Gallatin County Commission and the Gallatin County Fair Board chose in May to cancel the fair after deciding they couldn’t hold the event at a reduced capacity without incurring a significant loss. Fair staff has since posted links on the fair website for recipes of fair foods, rules for fair games and instructions for fair-themed crafts that people can try at home.

Next year’s fair, which the county has already begun planning, is scheduled for July 21 to July 25.

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Perrin Stein can be reached at or at 582-2648.

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