ASHLAND -- A week after the 2020 Ohio State Fair was canceled, the fate of the upcoming Ashland County Fair remains undetermined.
Earlier this week, Fair board manager Steve Englet said it’s “too soon to tell” about the local fair, which is scheduled for Sunday, Sept. 20 through Saturday, Sept. 26.
The fair board is currently considering two options, both allowing the fair to continue.
The first option would allow the fair to run as “normal as possible.” Englet recognizes social distancing will be required, but stays hopeful the fair could possibly go forward with food vendors, shows and more.
“That’s our preference, but we’re going to have plans in place for both options,” Englet said.
The second option is an “agriculture only” fair. This would allow children in 4H and other programs to show their animals and compete without crowds.
“That’s the mission of the fair, but the prize money, that often comes from the extra stuff. It generates revenue to cover the mission,” Englet said. “So if we have a fair that doesn’t have a gate (isn’t open to the public), we have serious challenges.”
Gov. Mike DeWine announced Thursday, May 28, that decisions on county fairs could be made at a local level. He released regulations Thursday that "strongly recommend" Agricultural Societies limit fairs to allow only for 4-H and FFA “Junior Fair” activities. This would include livestock shows and auctions.
A series of requirements and best practices are listed online for building capacity, food vendors, amusement rides and more.
The Ashland County Fair Board's Englet wasn’t surprised to see other fairs across the state announce cancelations. He noted that most are scheduled before Ashland’s, allowing less time for the organizers to adapt to the regulations put in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“A lot of it is they are early fairs. They have little time. Ours is the third week in September, so we don’t know what the CDC (Center for Disease Control) and government will mandate by then. We have time to plan yet,” Englet said.
With this time, he hopes to create an environment that is safe and feels safe to those who might attend.
He and the rest of the Ashland County Fair Board are pondering questions like: What would it look like for grandstand events to continue? And should the animal auction be held in-person or online?
Englet anticipates a “go-plan” will need to be decided upon by mid-July.
Other events at the Ashland County Fairgrounds have been slow since the beginning of 2020. To Englet’s memory, one horse sale took place in January. All events in March and April were canceled.