When Dakota County Fair officials found out that avian flu would prevent them from having live poultry on the fairgrounds, the news was “a little devastating,” said Mark Henry, one of the fair directors.

Chickens, ducks, geese and turkeys are often a big part of fairs.

At first, Anja Johnson, the 4-H program coordinator, didn’t know whether she should cancel the poultry judge. But after discussing the animal ban, Johnson said 4-H officials and participants started to come up with ideas.

The change forced 4-H to get creative. The club will have a “skillathon” where kids will demonstrate their knowledge of eggs, poultry and the avian flu. There also will be an “egg-stravaganza” with games, crafts and educational stations, Johnson said, as well as a poultry recipe contest.

She hopes the events will carry over in future years and perhaps take off in other areas — like beef.

There will still be judging, but it will be based on photos instead of live animals. Kids will have to know about the breed and answer questions, “Just like they would if that bird was in their hands,” Johnson said.

Jessie Van Berkel