Columbia County 4-H'ers can display their artwork at the Columbia County Fall Fair this year, as they have for about a decade.
But the entries won't be judged for prize money this year as the Merchants Association of Columbia County, which puts on the annual fair, takes over organization of the contest.
"We are not getting rid of it," said Pam Randall, the association president. "It will be back full force next year."
Shirley Williamson, the county's University of Georgia 4-H extension agent, normally organizes the program, which includes alerting 4-H'ers through the schools, collecting entries, displaying them at the fair and removing the display after the fair.
Williamson, whose only assistant recently retired, doesn't have the staff or time to handle the entries alone. She said she asked the association board for volunteer help and extra funding to cover the costs of the program.
"I wanted them to come up with a few extra volunteers to help us and be able to fund it," Williamson said. "That's really my main issue. Because overall, I want to see the kids be able to enter."
Williamson said she was informed Tuesday that the association leaders decided to take over the program.
Randall said the association pays the costs of the program, according to invoices presented by Williamson. But the costs were not always clearly documented, causing conflicts.
"Whatever she asked us to pay, we were paying," Randall said, adding that the association pays for ribbons, prize money, exhibit tags and other costs associated with the program. She also said some association members volunteered, but it was unclear exactly what that commitment entailed.
"I think there has been a gap in communication between the (association) executive board and extension to let me know exactly what they want and what they are willing to do," Williamson said.
Williamson said she was given $3,000 last year and had to dip into 4-H scholarship funds to cover extra costs, including printing fliers and feeding volunteers.
"It takes more than $3,000 to do it," Williamson said.
Randall said the association was not aware of such costs but is willing to pay costs associated with presenting the program at the Columbia County Fair. She said the $3,000 was a starting point and Williamson was supposed to ask for more funds.
"We would never have let her dip into any child's scholarship funds to feed volunteers," Randall said.
With Williamson's time constraints and the financial issues, Randall said association leaders decided it would be best to take over the financial side of the program and do much of the work associated with it to lessen the strain on Williamson.
"We're not trying to cut Shirley out, by no means," Randall said. "She won't have that pressure on her."
Randall said association members were overwhelmed with the work needed to organize the program and the fair at the same time and simply could not get it done before the Nov. 4 fair opening.
Entries will be accepted for display, but not judging. The judging and prizes will continue at the 2011 fair, Randall said.
A date and time will be arranged to drop off the entries, which will be approved by association members for display. Randall said to check the fair Web site, www.columbiacountyfair.net, for information about the drop-off times.
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