MARSHALL, Mich. – Something conspicuous is missing from the “Duck Pond” at the Calhoun County Fair in Marshall, Mich., this week. There is also something obvious missing from the fair’s 4-H exhibition hall. There are no ducks…and no chickens, turkey or any waterfowl for that matter.

Because of the ongoing threat of highly pathogenic avian influenza, fair organizers decided to ban the birds from this year’s fair, which began Sunday and runs through the week. In fact, the state’s Dept. of Agriculture and Rural Development imposed the ban on poultry displays at county fairs and other public events throughout Michigan as a precaution. Several states impacted by avian influenza have canceled or rescheduled poultry shows this summer due to the threat of AI.

The “Duck Pond” is the nickname for Fair Lake, which resides on the Calhoun Country fairgrounds for the state’s oldest county fair. Usually, “Duck Pond” is a big draw for adults and their children, who purchase corn to feed the dozens of ducks and other waterfowl inhabiting the lake. But the lake is empty this year.

So is part of the 4-H exhibition hall, where poultry animals have been displayed for years. A sign on a blackboard outside the 4-H hall said, “We are keeping our birds home to keep them safe.”

Earlier this summer, three Canada geese goslings were discovered to have had avian flu in a nearby county, prompting state officials to impose the ban, according to a story in the Battle Creek Enquirer in Battle Creek, Mich.

“It is disappointing,” Elena Rivera, a 10-year-old who has shown her turkeys and chickens at the fair since she was 5, told the Enquirer. “I was going to show ducks this year, too.”

Her father, Reynaldo Rivera, who raises 75 birds on his farm, understands the reason for the ban.
“You’ve to go to do what you’ve got to do to save stuff,” he said.

Though state officials said they would wait until the end of the year to make a decision about if and when to lift the ban for next year, according to the Enquirer.