Michigan State Fair goes virtual this year

By: Maria Allard | C&G Newspapers | Published August 21, 2020

 Although there won’t be carnival rides this year, the 2020 Michigan State Fair will go virtual Sept. 3-7.

Although there won’t be carnival rides this year, the 2020 Michigan State Fair will go virtual Sept. 3-7.

Photo provided by the 2020 Michigan State Fair

METRO DETROIT — The Michigan State Fair is usually an end-of-summer tradition packed with carnival rides, live entertainment, exhibits and much more.

This year’s fair, presented by Ram Trucks, is still on. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the 2020 Michigan State Fair will not be held at the Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi, but instead will be offered in a virtual format.

The fair will be held Sept. 3-7 as a free online event. It will include hourly social media posts of interactive contests, activities, live demonstrations, performances, historical and educational features, and more.

According to a fair press release, this year’s event will make donations to the Oakland Avenue Farm, Shriners Hospitals for Children and Military Families United. Fair officials also committed to providing $50,000 in urban and rural youth scholarships. The public can help support these programs by making monetary donations at www.michiganstatefairllc.com.

Oakland Avenue Farm in Detroit is a non-profit, community-based organization dedicated to cultivating healthy foods, sustainable economies, and active cultural environments.

Detroit Moslem Shriners, based in Southfield, supports Shriners Hospitals for Children, which provides advanced care for children with orthopedic conditions, burns, spinal cord injuries, and cleft lip and palate. The Shriners volunteers raise money through membership donations and from the community to fund the hospital stays of young patients.

Shriners Past Potentate Craig Stigleman said the Detroit Moslem Shriners pays to transport children to hospitals in Chicago; Dayton, Ohio; and Erie, Pennsylvania. There are 22 hospitals nationwide.

“We transport patients weekly to three hospitals depending on their needs. Shriners never charge for any of their care. Each (hospital) has a different set of facilities,” Stigleman said, adding the children range in age from  infants to 18. “At 18, we help them transition to other care.”

At various events, Stigleman and other members have met the children and families they help.

“It’s very emotional,” said Stigleman, who also serves on the Michigan State Fair Executive Committee. “You see the pain they’re going through. They are so brave. It’s why we do what we do.”

The Detroit Shriners also offer a number of activities, including a clown unit that entertains at the Michigan State Fair and the Shrine Circus. For more information on the Detroit Shriners, visit detroitshriners.com.

Military Families United, based in Wixom, is a national coalition of blue star, gold star, next of kin, veterans, and patriotic American families. Its mission is to honor the fallen, support those who fight, and serve their families through service, events and advocacy programs.

Debbie and John Ellsworth created the nonprofit organization after their son Justin M. Ellsworth, a 20-year-old U.S. Marine Corps lance corporal, was killed in Iraq Nov. 13, 2004. He posthumously received a bronze star of valor.

“I do this to keep his memory alive,” Debbie Ellsworth said. The Ellsworth’s also have a daughter, Jessica. “We do different things for different people so no one feels alone or left out. We’re all feeling the same way.”

Debbie Ellsworth said that, last year, fair officials reached out to the organization to hold its first annual Moovin’ Thru The Midway 5K run. Participants paid an entry fee to jog through the fair, and the run raised $17,500 for Military Families United.

“It was so awesome last year,” Debbie Ellsworth said. “You ran past cows, you ran through the big top, you ran past barns.”

Because of the pandemic, Moovin’ Thru The Midway will be held virtually this year Sept. 6. There’s a 5K run, walk, a 1-mile fun run, and a high school challenge. To register, visit michiganstatefair.enmotive.com.

Participants are encouraged to run or walk on their own time and post pictures of themselves on the 2020 Michigan State Fair website at www.michiganstatefairllc.com. For more information on Military Families United, visit www.militaryfamiliesunited.org.

A large part of the Michigan State Fair has always been the 4-H clubs displays. That will continue this year in the virtual format. The Michigan State Fair, in partnership with Michigan State University Extension, is launching the Michigan State Fair 4-H & Youth Virtual Showcase.

The statewide showcase will provide a virtual platform for youth across Michigan to exhibit their work in all project areas and apply for a variety of scholarships. Any Michigan youth ages 5-19 is encouraged to participate; 4-H membership is not required.

Students can display their livestock, LEGO, woodworking, art, photography, crafts, vegetables, agriculture and more. To submit an entry, visit the website www.michiganstatefairllc.com/copy-of-fair-entry. Aug. 23 is the deadline.

“We are opening it to any youth that has a project they have been working on and compete with others across the state,” Debbie Morgan, CFLE, 4-H program coordinator said. “We know it’s not going to replace the fair, but we can give the kids an opportunity to show their projects.”  

The virtual format also gives students who live far away the opportunity to participate.

The Michigan State Fair 4-H & Youth Virtual Showcase will award 10 $1,000 scholarships through an application process for youth ages 8-19. According to organizers, the fair is able to award scholarships because of a “generous donation” from Blair Bowman of the Michigan State Fair.

The 2020 Michigan State Fair Facebook page is www.facebook.com/MichiganStateFair, and on Instagram: @michiganstatefair.