Ohio fair organizers, 4-H’ers and FFA members and fairgoers alike have been waiting for answers from the state on what this year’s county fairs could look like for weeks amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
On May 28, almost two weeks after receiving recommendations from the fair advisory group he organized, Gov. Mike DeWine released his guidelines.
They boil down to this: local fairs should decide for themselves.
DeWine said in a press conference that fair boards should work with their local health departments to come up with a safe way to hold junior fair sales and shows, and non-livestock junior fair shows.
“Decisions … need to be made locally,” DeWine said, noting that all fairs have different financial situations and layouts.
The guidelines “strongly recommend” that fairs are limited to only 4-H and FFA junior fair activities, but did not require that. Some fair organizers have noted that junior fairs are expensive and usually rely on revenue from other senior fair events.
The Ohio Department of Agriculture is in the process of distributing all state funding available for county and independent fairs, DeWine said.
But, DeWine added, fairs need to comply with all other current health orders as well, though he noted that conditions could change over the summer.
The order restricting gatherings to 10 people or less is still currently in place. Fairs would also have to follow rules for other sectors that apply to them, like food service, amusement rides and campgrounds.
For junior fair livestock shows, only 10 exhibitors can be in the show ring at once. Spectators are also required to follow current mass gathering and social distancing orders. Animals can only stay on the fairgrounds for 72 hours.
Skillathon events and barns also must comply with social distancing rules. For auctions, animals must not be in the ring.
Non-livestock exhibitions must be spaced out to comply with social distancing and must be cleaned between participants.
Fair employees, volunteers and participants also have to wear facial coverings, with some listed exceptions. Facial coverings are recommended for fairgoers.
The guidelines say fairgoers should not touch or pet animals, and there should be no physical contact between judges, exhibitors, participants, buyers and sellers, including handshakes, hugs and high fives.
Other guidelines include limiting building capacities and following social distancing rules, and providing adequate hand washing stations and sanitization.
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