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Pennsylvania Farm Show still a go

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With the COVID-19 pandemic raging and the omicron variant causing problems, Russell Redding, Pennsylvania Secretary of Agriculture, said the Farm Show 2022, which was virtual last year, is still ongoing and will be held Jan. 8-15 at the Pennsylvania Agricultural Show Complex and Exhibition Center in Harrisburg.

But with the prospect of thousands of people crowding into a facility known for its crowded conditions and, at times, poor ventilation, Redding says people need to be smart before making the trip this year.

“We’re going to be pretty clear that if they feel uncomfortable or if they themselves are vulnerable, or if they have family in households or vulnerable people, it’s not not the place or the year to come to the farm show, ”he said. said. β€œWe have never tried to discourage, but we will try this year to be very clear, to be aware, as we have learned over the past 21 months, to be flexible but also to be smart. on this subject.

β€œWe have never gone so far to make the public understand that it is necessary to really think before entering this complex. Not that we feel our planning is inadequate. I think it’s just about the environment and the issues we have been facing for the past year and a half with regard to public health and safety. We just have to keep sending a message.

The farmhouse show complex has undergone several changes since the last in-person show in 2020, including a new $ 20 million ventilation and air handling system, new floors, and improved electrical systems.

All visitors will be offered masks and hand sanitizer upon entering the building, and although masks are optional on buses transporting visitors to and from the building’s satellite car parks to the gate. entry, Redding strongly recommends the wearing of masks.

Flu and COVID-19 vaccination clinics, sponsored by the state Department of Health, will also be held daily.

Redding spoke in detail about these changes, along with other ways organizers plan to keep exhibitors and visitors safe throughout the show:

Has the emergence of this new omicron variant changed plans for the show? I would say the new variant did several things. First, it has strengthened our focus on messages about what we do to protect public health and safety. That is, to be more direct in respecting the guidelines of the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention); ensuring that we have hand sanitizing masks and stations available for staff, the public, exhibitors, etc. ; and most importantly, I think, elevating what we’ve done in anticipation, even pre-omicron, of the investments we’ve made in things like the air handling system, which doesn’t seem to matter until what you thought it was airborne and all the air quality issues we’ve heard about in the last year and a half.

Do you have any personnel issues for this year’s show? We have been in the recruiting phase for some time. We are challenged on security. We are challenged on maintenance personnel and labor. On the employee side, all is well. I mean, I think given what we’ve done to keep the complex open and running and managing the PPE, overall 2021 was important because it … kept this staff engaged and employed, so we have a based. Our challenge is to find enough manpower and enough security. But we are making progress every day on this.

Can you tell us a little more about the improvements made to the building’s ventilation system? We had planned an investment project that was to start right after the 2020 agricultural show. It was just over $ 20 million. Obviously this was temporarily halted, but one of the planned work was the air handling systems, in particular. So it’s not just in one part of the complex; it is noticeable everywhere. Thus, in the large arena, the equine arena, the sales arena, the exhibition hall, the ground floor, everything has been improved.

I have personally experienced the air quality, and exhibitors (at the Keystone International Livestock Expo and the All American Dairy Show) have noticed how the air quality has improved. . And they felt not only a personal benefit, but an animal benefit as well. I think it’s an essential part of that confidence to enter the agricultural exhibition complex.

Have there been any changes to the layout of the stands and the layout of the aisles? The aisles have been widened and we have improved the direction of the aisles. So if you know the old main hall facing Maclay Street, there was an alley that ran east to west. We carried this same pattern to the rest of this main room, because you still have those pinch points halfway through. And we tried to change that so that you can walk from end to end without having to be scattered halfway.

Looking back, could we have done more in terms of planning for 2022? A year later we have a vaccine, we have boosters, we have a high percentage of Pennsylvanians who have been vaccinated. So we feel that the weather is different. Yes, COVID is still here. We have tools that people need to use.

But in that planning, part of it was, do we just do a cattle show and competitive events and just call it a day? Are we losing food? Do we limit the number of days and hours? What is our ability to ticket people entering to limit access? The reality is in a place with a thousand doors, it is very difficult to have a ticketing system. So we let that go and wanted to manage the things that we can handle. Air quality, we can make masks available, we can do this important messaging, we can widen the aisles, and we can be a little clearer in the messaging, but also in the accommodation to ensure, like in the big food court, open it up so we can get rid of those pinch points where people congregate. I think we continue to modify and improve our own planning.

Updates from the show can be found at farmshow.pa.gov.

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