Coronavirus: State guidelines determine which events proceed at Clark County Fairgrounds

The Freedom Tour featuring live music, fireworks show is canceled

The Clark County Combined Health District is using the Ohio Department of Health’s Responsible RestartOhio guidelines to determine which events can proceed at the Clark County Fairgrounds.

The Freedom Tour, a drive-in/tailgate style event, planned for the Clark County Fairgrounds on Labor Day was canceled because the event is considered entertainment that is not permitted, according to the Responsible RestartOhio guidelines, CCCHD Health Commissioner Charles Patterson explained.

Dillin Events, the organizer of the event, previously planned to hold the Freedom Tour in July and had expected and hoped that things would get better and the rules would change by now, Patterson said.

“Those rules have not changed at this point to allow that (the Freedom Tour) to move forward,” Patterson said. “It would be different if it was a drive-in theatre type where people would stay in their cars, but this event specifically said you drive in your car, you park and then you get out of your car.”

The event was planned to feature live music by Rayne Johnson and Ashley Martin, food trucks, fireworks and a show featuring skydiving and pyrotechnics.

“We are incredibly disappointed to make this announcement, and frustrated for our communities and especially for our charities, that our previously approved events are now unable to proceed,” Cheryl Dillin, chief brand officer of Dayton-based Dillin Corp. said.

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All seven stops for The Freedom Tour including Waynesville, West Carrollton, Mason and West Chester are canceled, Dillin said.

“We still feel that everything we were doing is compliant with the guidelines of COVID-19 today,” Dillin said. “We absolutely believe we were putting on a safe event.”

Dillin Events planned to comply with guidelines by having a parking plan that would feature 8 to 10 feet social distancing, not permitting people to visit between cars and capping groups to 10 people.

According to the Responsible RestartOhio guidelines, certain entertainment/recreational sites remain closed including auditoriums, stadiums, arenas, performance theatres, indoor concerts and music halls.

There are some anomalies built into the orders, Patterson said. For example, non-contact sports are permitted to have spectators, but you can not have a concert, according to the Responsible RestartOhio guidelines. Another example is 300 people can be in a banquet hall as long as it has a catering license, the tables have 10 people or less and people are social distancing, but you can’t have 300 people at a concert even if you have them social distancing, Patterson said.

The state never meant for the guidelines to be like that, Patterson said. “But, that’s currently what’s on the books and we have to follow the orders that are on the books.”

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If the health district has an event that is in a “gray area” they reach out to the Ohio Department of Health and other health departments around the state to see if precedents have been set, Patterson explained.

Dillin said their “hearts are really sad” because the proceeds from the event were going to be donated to the Clark County Agricultural Society Endowment and the Springfield Foundation Four Corners development.

“For most of them (charities) this was going to be it,” Dillin said. “This was their only charity event fundraiser for the entire year so we knew we had to make it worth it.”

Ticket holders and sponsors for The Freedom Tour have the option to request a full refund or to donate 100 percent of their ticket sale or sponsorship to the local charity.

Clark County Fairgrounds Executive Director Dean Blair said this is the first event they were unable to proceed with at the fairgrounds since reopening under the Responsible RestartOhio guidelines.

“More times than not it’s not because we can’t do it or we’re told we can’t do it,” Blair said of events in general. “It’s because financially it doesn’t make sense in the promoter’s mind.”

Several promoters have canceled or rescheduled events because they were losing vendors or were expecting a financial loss because of a lack of participation, Blair said.

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If a promoter wants to proceed with an event, Blair said he requests a business plan that outlines what the event is and the protocol that will be expected.

“If it’s something new, unique and different – like the Freedom Tour - I take that business plan and review it with the health department,” Blair said.

Many times he does not have to review the plan with the health district because they have already had the event and the protocol has been approved, he said.

“We still do not believe that large gatherings of people especially folks that you do not know well and don’t live in your household are a good idea,” Patterson said. It makes contact tracing difficult if a person is positive for the coronavirus, he said.

“We know from our positivity rate it’s potential that one in three people per 100 are in fact positive for having the coronavirus,” Patterson said.

The CCCHD prefers strict rules around gatherings.

“The health district does not support gatherings of greater than 10 people in most cases even when there is a legal loophole within these orders that allows that to happen,” Patterson added.

The Clark County Fairgrounds has several upcoming events that have been modified to the state’s guidelines including a gun show on Aug. 22 and 23 and a swap meet Sept. 4 - 6.

Extreme Midget Wrestling is scheduled for Sept. 11, but Blair said he is expecting the promoter to delay the event again. The event was originally scheduled to take place in March, but was canceled because of the pandemic. Blair said if the promoter plans to proceed with the event, he will discuss if the event is possible with the health district.

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