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ELEVEN MILE CORNER — Area kids who raised livestock for sale at the Pinal County Fair are being urged not to panic as they continue caring for their animals.

Hundreds of area young people participate in 4-H and FFA by raising an animal and selling it at the annual Pinal County Fair. This year, the fair and the annual junior livestock sale have been canceled due to the coronavirus.

Organizers posted a message on the fair’s website saying: “The Pinal County Fair has an obligation to protect the youth and the communities we serve using the best information available. Social distancing is needed to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus disease. It is with a heavy heart that we have to inform you that for the safety of our community, the 2020 Pinal County Fair has been canceled.

“We know this announcement is a disappointment to our staff, volunteers, neighbors, organizations, businesses and sponsors who have been working so hard to produce an incredible event for everyone. We wish everyone good health and happy fun days ahead.”

“Please don’t panic,” the Pinal County Junior Livestock Committee said on its website Monday. “We will communicate next steps on Tuesday evening.”

Although carcasses have already been judged, the awards ceremony has been canceled and results will be posted online.

“We recognize this is a major upset,” PCJLC said on its website. “Further actions will be taken to support exhibitors financially. The PCJLC Board is committed to finding financial solutions and options for the exhibitors.”

The Coolidge FFA program said it is strategizing with other Pinal County organizations following the announcement of the fair’s cancellation.

Coolidge High School FFA adviser Jadee Rohner said the fair’s cancellation presents two challenges for students enrolled in the program. The first is the financial burden placed on students who have invested their money into raising livestock with the hopes of selling it at the fair. In addition, the cancellation means that students will also be missing out on critical show ring experience.

“We’re going to keep doing what we have been doing,” Rohner said. She said program advisers have met and will continue to meet with the Pinal County Junior Livestock Committee to explore alternative courses of action.

The program has also experienced an outpouring of community support since the announcement was made on Saturday, she said.

Individuals interested in contributing support or ideas to help FFA members during this time are urged to reach out directly to the junior livestock committee at pcjuniorlivestock@gmail.com.

PCJLC is working on alternative auction options, a letter sent Monday to junior livestock exhibitors and their families said.

“Please rest assured that it is a top priority of ours that we will come up with a solution to assist with the financial burden that you have incurred by raising your livestock animal,” the letter, signed by PCJLC auction Sales Chairman Carlos Gamez said.

Buyers and supporters can donate to a Blue Ribbon fund set up by the organization to help exhibitors.

The fair organizers’ message said carnival presale tickets will be refunded.

“If you have purchased a discounted presale carnival pass for the 2020 Pinal County Fair, we will be issuing refunds at the Pinal County Fairgrounds office only. Do not return your ticket to the location from which you bought it.”

The fair said refunds would be issued only through March 25 at the fair office, 512 S. Eleven Mile Corner Road, and tickets must be returned.

Office hours are Monday to Friday, 9 to 4, and Saturday, 10 to 4.

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Melissa St. Aude is the Arts & Entertainment editor at PinalCentral. She can be reached at mstaude@pinalcentral.com.

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