Coronavirus uncertainty causes Clark County to plan for limited fair

Clark County Fairgrounds Executive Director Dean Blair said the decision to hold a fair in reduced capacity this year was made from “fiduciary responsibility.”

Holding a late-July fair that includes only 4-H and FFA exhibits and some food vendors is projected to result in a loss of $75,000 to $100,000, but Blair suggested the damage could be much worse if the Clark County Fair Board planned to have a full fair with rides and entertainment then had to change those plans closer to the scheduled start date of July 24.

As it stands, Blair said contracts must be altered or amended, “And you can’t expect that without a reasonable notice. We would call this first week of June a reasonable notice, so those are the calls that I will get very busy making this weekend and next week to give everybody the news on that.

“We think that will prevent from having issues and alienating suppliers and vendors and people we want to continue doing business with.”

The decision stems from having to comply with Ohio Department of Health orders that have been in effect since March to try to slow the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.

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Over the weekend, ODH extended social distancing guidelines and a ban on gatherings of more than 10 people through July 1, a move that did not cement the board’s decision but made it feel like the risk of going forward with plans for a full fair might be greater.

“Let’s say middle of July, there’s a COVID-19 outbreak or something changes in the governmental laws and all the sudden we cannot have a fair and charge admission,” Blair said. This would put the fair in a position of instead of losing about $75,000 to $100,000, they could lose around $400,000, he added.

The projected cost of holding a limited fair accounts for utilities, judging fees, manure removal and an anticipated increase in sanitation practices.

Blair said the board has not decided yet if it will charge for admission, and it is still working out the logistics of livestock shows.

The latter could include smaller classes, at least in the case of some species, because of the social distancing requirements and the ban on large gatherings that may or may not still be in place at that time.

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State regulations and guidelines for county fairs released last week call for auctions to be held without the animal present, which may make holding them entirely online a more desirable option according to Blair.

The internet has already been the realm of most 4-H activities this year according to Ohio State Extension educator for Clark County Patty House.

In addition to coordinating plans for a virtual 4-H camp to be held in late June, House has hosted 18 quality assurance sessions via online video chats while other project committee volunteers have hosted clincis and workshops as well.

“Clark County 4-H is collaborating with the Clark County Fair Board to provide opportunities for youth to showcase their 4-H projects at a junior-fair-only fair for 2020,” House said.

Pre-fair judging of projects and animal skillathons are still set for July 14-17 .

“Both face-to-face and virtual options are being planned with final decisions on which format to be used later in June depending on current Ohio health orders,” House said.

The fair will have some food vendors, though not nearly as many as the usual 60-some according to Blair.

A person interested in stopping in for some fair food is likely to be able to do that, but whether or not they could also watch a livestock show while on the grounds remains to be seen. That will likely be determined by whether the ban on large gatherings has been lifted.

Clark County is just the latest fair board to announce plans for holding only a junior fair, joining Madison, Montgomery, Butler and Warren counties.

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The Champaign County Fair Board has a meeting scheduled Thursday at which time the fate of that event could be decided, and the Greene County Fair is set for a decision to be made June 15.

Representatives from Miami and Darke told the Dayton Daily News they are holding out hope for a full fairs, but they have more time to wait to decide since those fairs are not until August.

That is a luxury not afforded to Clark County, the birthplace of 4-H, where the shortened fair is scheduled to be held sometime during the original dates of July 24-31.

“And so it’s really a matter of good few fiduciary responsibility of trying to make sure that we are here to do the next 200 fairs that we have to make a reasonable and careful decision, and that’s why you’re seeing all these fairs do that,” Blair said. “They have to make reasonable, careful decisions right now of how they fulfill their duties as best they can, but do it in the scope of COVID-19, and in a time when it is just impossible to manage the financial situation of a fair.”

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