Alaska State Fair cancels poultry exhibits amidst avian flu outbreak

Though numbers are low in comparison to other states, CEO Jerome Hertel doesn’t want to risk it
Though numbers are low in comparison to other states, CEO Jerome Hertel doesn’t want to risk it
Published: Aug. 5, 2022 at 5:13 PM AKDT
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PALMER, Alaska (KTUU) - Crews and exhibitors have begun the process of building rides and setting up booths on the state fairgrounds as the Alaska State Fair season sits just around the corner — but some notable faces will be absent this year.

A press release put out by the organization Thursday announced that it would be canceling poultry exhibits this year due to highly pathogenic avian influenza.

According to the Division of Environmental Health State Veterinarian’s website, data indicates that of the over 40 million cases of confirmed bird flu in the United States, 107 of those have been reported in Alaska. The numbers pale in comparison to other states, but CEO of the Alaska State Fair, Jerome Hertel, said it’s not worth the risk.

“We want to be cautious,” Hertel said. “We want to protect those domestic flocks and that wild bird population in the state of Alaska.”

This is the first time Hartel has seen the poultry exhibit canceled since he took over as CEO in 2015. He said the biggest impact will fall on the 4-H youth group — a youth development organization that runs a junior market livestock auction at the fair every year. The fair is now exploring other options for participating kids to still display their poultry.

“We are working on plans — some alternative plans that are in place for those kids to still be able to have their animals judged,” Hartel said. “Just not at the fair, but in a safer environment.”

The poultry exhibit takes up roughly 20% of space in the barn. Without it, Hertel said the plan is to space out the other livestock exhibits.

The Alaska State Fair will stick with the same three-week schedule that was introduced last year to spread out crowds because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Hartel said he received great feedback from vendors and the carnival for having two days off each week to restock and clean.

“Everybody really enjoyed the format last year so we’re gonna stick with it,” Hartel sai. “I foresee us staying with the same format in the future.”

The fair kicks off on Friday, Aug. 19, and will run through Sep. 5, closing on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Advance admission and concert tickets are available for purchase online.

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