Portage County Fair

COVID-19 impacts status of state, county fairs

Marking time in agriculture can often be summed up in three specific arcs – planting, harvesting and fair seasons.

The continued Ohio protocols surrounding social distancing and gathering in large groups to combat COVID-19 is having a profound effect on fair season.

Recently Marion County canceled its overall county fair, set to begin June 29. The junior fair board will proceed with livestock shows at some point this summer, but the usual sights and sounds of a county fair, from the midway to the rides and food, likely will be noticeably absent this year.

“We know our county leaders and volunteers have been receiving questions about the status of county fairs, if they will be open and if so, what that will look like,” said Tony Seegers, director of state policy for Ohio Farm Bureau. “We have been in contact with the Ohio Department of Agriculture, Ohio State University and the Ohio Fair Managers Association and are monitoring the situation. Ultimately, these decisions will be made by the fair board in charge in each county.” 

OFMA testified before the Ohio Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee May 6, outlining suggestions and practices for county fairs if they are able to operate this season with strict social distancing in place. 

DeWine’s stand on fairs

The status of the county fairs and the state fair has been on Gov. Mike DeWine’s mind and he specifically mentioned his love of the fairs during one of his news conferences. During the same news conference, DeWine announced that ODA Director Pelanda had waived the required $50,000 local match for the Agricultural Society Facilities Grant Program. This will allow all county and independent fairs to be eligible for $50,000 with no match.

“We understand our members’ incredible dedication and concern for their local fairs, and the opportunities for our youth to participate in their traditional activities,” Seegers said. “We will continue to talk to the administration, OSU and the Ohio Fair Managers Association about the status of our state and county fairs.”