*We are following this story as closely as possible. Stay tuned for updates.
** Updated 5/12, 4:10 p.m.
*** Updated 5/15, 10 a.m.
The 2020 Paulding County Fair is canceled, due to safety concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The senior and junior fair boards, with input from the county health department and commissioners, made the decision in a May 11 virtual meeting, reported Paulding Progress.
The fair, in Paulding, Ohio, was scheduled to begin June 13, just a month away. Ohio is under a stay-at-home order until at least May 29, and the order prohibits fairs, festivals and parades in addition to limiting gatherings to 10 people or less.
The fair board said in April that it would only hold a junior fair this year. Fair board secretary Heather Cooper later said in May that the board was a month behind on getting ready, since stay-at-home orders prevented it from beginning work on the fairgrounds in April.
Now, that junior fair has been canceled as well.
“We’re the first fair in the state; we have four weeks until the fair; we have gotten no guidance from the governor,” Cooper told Farm and Dairy in a May 12 phone call.
“Looking at how they’re opening things back up, fairs are way down on the list,” fair board president Dan Howell said May 14.
Cooper said that the costs for increased sanitization and difficulty of enforcing social distancing guidelines at the fair were part of what made the fair not an option this year.
“How do you tell kids from eight years old to 18 that they can’t hang out with their friends that they haven’t seen for three or four months?” she said.
While costs played a part — Howell noted that putting safety features in place could have doubled the usual junior fair costs — safety was the bottom line.
Cooper noted that Paulding County has only had a handful of confirmed COVID-19 cases so far.
“We don’t want to be the reason that there’s a spike,” Cooper said. “We decided, for the best interests of Paulding County, that we couldn’t have the fair.”
The fair board has packers lined up for junior fair market livestock. Junior fair exhibitors who complete quality assurance and skillathon are considered a completed project and can sell their livestock to these packers at market price. The board will also have a virtual “add on” auction to help youth make up for the premium prices that they normally get at junior fair sales.
“Businesses in Paulding County are very supportive,” Cooper said, adding that she anticipates that businesses that weren’t hit hard by the pandemic will still support the county’s youth.
Howell said the only projects that will have a somewhat regular auction will be the dairy and beef feeder calves.
“There’s no real way to get a market value on these animals,” he explained.
So, 4-H’ers will bring their feeder calves to the fairgrounds, have them weighed, tagged and put in the cattle barn, then leave. Then, prospective buyers will come in to look the animals over. Then, there will be a live auction, with the event streamed on Facebook so that the 4-H’ers can watch, even though they won’t be there. This will take place during the week the fair was scheduled for.
“There will be very few people at that auction,” Howell said.
In a May 13 meeting, the fair board discussed having virtual shows, but ultimately decided against it.
“A virtual show is good if it’s just a jackpot show,” said Howell. “But for a junior fair show … there’s no way to make sure there hasn’t been cosmetic stuff done to that animal.”
The board is hoping to plan a fun day for county 4-H and FFA members in the fall.
While Gov. Mike DeWine has a fair advisory group developing guidelines for county fairs, the state has offered no timeline for lifting restrictions on mass gatherings.
“This was the most difficult decision most of us have ever had to make,” the fair said in a Facebook post. “We came together as one, to make this tough decision for the best interest of the community.”
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