Following Governor Mike DeWine’s order placed on county fairs this week, limiting all fairs to Junior Fairs only during the COVID-19 pandemic, forced a handful of fair boards to amend their plans.
The Governor’s order affects county and independent fairs with an opening day on or after July 31, 2020, will be limited to specific junior fair events.
“We’ve seen several fairs that have been doing an excellent job to keep fair-goers safe, yet other fairs have been connected to outbreaks; some have disregarded social distancing; and we’ve also seen a lack of enforcement of the statewide mask order. It’s just a real shame,” said Governor DeWine. “Because it is becoming increasingly clear that we cannot have a regular, safe fair in the summer of 2020, I believe we must now scale fairs back.”
Junior fair activities such as livestock competitions and 4-H and Future Farmers of America competitions for kids and teenagers may continue as planned, but junior fairs must develop a plan that reduces crowding in barns, such as limiting entrance to only the immediate family of those actively showing their animals or projects. A 10 p.m. curfew will also be instituted for the barns, buildings, and midways.
Harness racing can proceed with no spectators, but rides, games, and grandstand events will be prohibited to limit crowds and better prevent coronavirus spread.
Locally, Pike Fair officials has had to work quickly for modifications with the cancellation of grandstand events like motorcross racing, the truck and tractor pull and demolition derby. 4H Clubs were to begin assembling their booths Friday with the first Horse Show scheduled for Saturday. Most all events involving livestock will go on as scheduled.
According to the Ohio Public Health Advisory Risk Levels released Thursday, Pike County (yellow) is at the lowest risk and Medina (red) is highest at Level 3. The other counties hosting fairs next week are at Level 2.
The Ross County Fair begins August 8, but last June, the Fair Board was proactive and voted to host a Junior Fair only.
As with any event today, check ahead before attending. Most are posting on their websites or social media sites with their latest important information for visitors.
DeWine praised the efforts of organizations conducting the fairs and their attempts to follow state guidelines through discouraging congregation and large gatherings of people on the county fairgrounds plus granting additional funds to help fairs operate safely. However, the order came Tuesday from the state house to limit all fairs to Junior Fairs beginning with those starting on or after Friday, July 31st.
The directly impacts Pike County which was prepared for a full fair opening this Saturday.
The Pike County General Health District released the following statement after the Governor’s announcement:
Representatives of the Pike County Fair were assembling to discuss DeWine’s announcement and were planning to issue a statement following their meeting.
DeWine expressed his disappointment with having to make the order.
“There’s good things going on out there, yet we’ve seen outbreaks connected with fairs. We’ve seen a lack of distancing. We’ve seen, even after the mask order was put on (July 22nd) we’ve seen fairs that clearly were not enforcing any kind of mask order at all… and that’s just a real shame.”
DeWine outlined what the rest of county fairs would look like. “We will preserve the Junior Fair (4H and FFA projects) livestock, photography, rockets, sewing… but, going forward, no grandstand events, no rides, no games, no carnival.” The order will include a curfew of 10pm with exceptions of shows that will run later.
Ross County voted in June to limit its fair to Junior Fair only, placing them ahead of the curve. Ross County’s version of the fair begins August 8th as move-in day for goats, poultry and sheep while the 4H Dog Show will take place. Shows with the aforementioned livestock, in addition to horses, will take place Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. The grounds will be cleared at 7pm for sanitizing the grounds before reopening Wednesday through Saturday with rabbits, swine and beef shows.
At its monthly meeting Monday, the Ross County Agriculture Society voted to cancel the 2020 Senior Fair, but did decide to host a version of its annual Junior Fair this August.
Like many county fairs, the members wrestled with how to host the fair given the restrictions handed down by the State of Ohio last week. Not only the health restrictions, but also the financial feasibility of ensuring the future of the fair.
“I didn’t get accomplished what I wanted to accomplish” said Fair Board President Bryan Bethel after the meeting. While the board agreed to have a Junior Fair, it plans to meet again June 16th to decide what it will consist of.
Bethel admits the volatility of re-opening of Ohio has put fairs and festivals in difficult circumstances. “With the State changing, I mean everything changes daily, people see it” said Bethel “so we’re just changing with it. And maybe things will change and we can open this up a little bit better, later. But for right now, with the guidelines we’ve got to follow, this is all we can have.”
The superintendents for the livestock shows and 4-H projects are meeting Tuesday. They’ll get together with Senior Fair Board to share ideas they have for presenting their show.
Not having a Senior Fair means, no amusement rides, midway, concessions, grandstand entertainment or camping. The Ross County has long been one of if not the largest campground among Ohio’s county fairs. “I’d say that one of the biggest disappointments that I have” said Bethel. “I was hoping we could have some kind of camping. That’s where we could make money and at least pay for the Junior Fair events.”
The Junior Fair will likely be a scaled back event from what fairgoers are used to experiencing. 4-H Extension Educator Katie Feldheus was happy to hear the Senior Fair Board members give their support the kids and to work to have a Junior Fair. “We’re going to be working to come up with policies to put in place that as long as our families are willing to work alongside us and we can make the budget work, we’ll be very likely to head to the (Junior) Fair come August.”
Extension Program Assistant Sally Bluck said the Fair Board’s action Monday helps with direction. “Now we’re (4-H) able to make decisions and go ahead and move forward with planning another great opportunity for the youth of Ross County.”
Harness racing was approved to take place, but with no spectators.
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.