COVID-19 impacts status of state, county fairs

While the Ohio State Fair has been canceled, several county fairs are still hosting Junior Fair events. 

The Ohio protocols surrounding social distancing and gathering in large groups to combat COVID-19 is having a profound effect on fair season. Soon Gov. Mike DeWine is expected to issue guidance about how a county fair board can proceed with a modified fair this year. For the latest, up-to-date information check coronavirus.ohio.gov and be sure to monitor special editions of Buckeye Farm eNews from Ohio Farm Bureau via e-mail.

Ohio Farm Bureau members were represented on the governor’s County Fair Task Force during the COVID-19 pandemic, concentrating primarily on the Junior Fair shows; other portions of county fairs have been assigned to other task forces. OFBF Director of Livestock Policy Roger High and Christy Montoya, organization director for Butler, Hamilton, Montgomery and Preble counties, represented members’ interests on the task force.

Task force members provided input and made suggestions regarding livestock shows, skill-a-thons, barns, auctions, campgrounds, nonlivestock exhibitions and more. Discussions were focused on how such activities can be held while maintaining social distance, limiting crowds and the health of everyone involved in the fair as well as animal care and welfare.

The Ohio Fair Managers Association 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. The task force sent their recommendations to the governor May 15.

The status of the county fairs and the state fair has been on Gov. 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 Dorothy 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.