Governor DeWine Addresses County Fairs

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Fair Board Members and exhibitors alike have been waiting for word from the Statehouse on county fairs. Thursday afternoon, Governor Mike DeWine delivered the message.

There will be a lot of heavy lifting to get it done, and while it will be far different than what fairgoers are used to, the “go ahead” was music to the ears for organizers.

Christy Pence is Secretary of the Pickaway County Fair Board. Their fair is scheduled just three weeks away, June 20th-27th. Pence says the news conference by the Governor was encouraging and relative to what they’d expected based on the information from the Ohio Fair Manager’s Association task force recommendations that were proposed to the Governor’s office early last week.

In a response to Litter Media, Pence said “We are pleased that they are leaving decisions about county fairs to local officials. We are appreciative of the guidance of the Pickaway County Department of Public Health as we have been working with them on enhanced and alternative safety plans for a modified fair based on current restrictions. We are NOT cancelling the 75th Pickaway County Fair, and our Jr. Fair exhibitors can confidently continue working hard on their projects to proudly show their livestock the week of June 20.” Pence added the Senior Fair Board will be thoroughly reviewing and processing the information released Thursday and will vote on a final fair plan at the board’s meeting on Monday, June 8 at 7pm. The meeting will be in Heritage Hall at the Pickaway Agriculture and Event Center.

“While it will most certainly look different than years past we’re excited and looking forward to celebrating our youth and their talents with our community” added Pence.

Katie Feldhues is the 4-H Extension Educator for Ross County. “I think fairboards have an opportunity to rally with community support to pull off a Jr Fair at minimum as long as people are willing to follow necessary health guidelines put in place.” The Ross County Fair is slated for August 8th-15th.

Those guidelines cover a lot of ground (see below).

The Pike County Fair is the last week of July. The Fair’s Mary Conley tells Litter Media “Jr. Fair is on schedule even though Extension staff can have no face to face until July 6. We have tried to stay positive and have been waiting on word form the Governor.”

Conley added they’ve planned to meet with Pike Health Commissioner Matt Brewster to get the ball rolling.

The State has recommended virtual judging in many circumstances and restrictions in and out of the show arenas, including livestock auctions and just how long the animals will be housed on the fairgrounds. All of which will present some challenges for the fairs.

From a session of a work group focused on county fairs, the Governor asked them to “provide a safe outlet for kids to participate in limited livestock shows, showmanship, skillathons, barn or building activities, the auction as well as the non-livestock exhibits.” 

Among the guidelines:

Junior Fair Animal Exhibits, limiting livestock exhibitions to 10 exhibitors in the show ring at one time; spectators and others in the exhibition area must follow current orders regarding mass gatherings and social distancing; animals will be permitted to stay on the fairgrounds for no more than 72 hours. The State Is recommending the stay on the fairgrounds for only 48 hours.

Skillathon, a virtual skillathon is strongly recommended

Barns, The number of handlers and pen placement must follow current orders regarding mass gatherings and social distancing; Ensure adequate air flow in all barns and exhibition facilities for the safety and health of the animals.

Auctions, Virtual auctions are recommended by the State. Animals are not to be present in the ring for the auctions; viewing gallery limited to buyers and immediate family unless building capacity allows for more while following social distance guidelines.

Non-Animal Exhibitions,Virtual judging of exhibits is recommended.

Volunteers, Ensure the practicing of social distancing guidelines and the State recommends using the least number of volunteers possible and using those who are not in high risk groups.

Campgrounds, Campgrounds operators and visitors must comply with the standards outlined as applicable in the COVID-19 Responsible RestartOhio plan for Camping and Campgrounds. In addition, no compounding or clustering in groups no the fair campgrounds and for the duration of the fair, local boards of health and fair boards will work together to ensure that all wastewater is properly disposed.

Food Concessions, Must comply with the standards outlined as applicable in the COVID-19 Responsible RestartOhio plan for restaurants and bars as applicable.

Physical Contact, No physical contact between judges, exhibitors, participants, buyers, sellers, i.e. congratulatory handshakes, hugs high fives; Fairgoers must not pet or touch animals.

Ticket Sales, State strongly recommends advanced ticket sales and cashless transactions at entrances, gates and other areas where items and services are purchased.

Building Capacity, Establish a one-way directional flow of traffic through barns, exhibition buildings and other fair facilities. State recommends t follow the guideline of 50% of current permitted capacity with the allowance for proper social distancing between occupants or in compliance with current Executive Orders.