SIDNEY – Despite objections from Junior Fair Board members and families of exhibitors, the Shelby County Senior Fair Board voted during its meeting Wednesday evening to limit each Junior Fair category to a single day this year.
Last month the Fair Board voted to cancel this year’s Shelby County Fair events with the exception of Junior Fair activities. Wednesday’s meeting established some of the guidelines for how those Junior Fair shows will proceed.
For livestock shows, all shows for a species – such as market shows and showmanship shows – must be completed in one day. Animals will arrive at the fairgrounds and depart the day of their shows.
The plan was approved by the Senior Fair Board with 64 percent of the voters being for the proposal – 16 votes for and nine votes against.
The decision to limit shows to a single day was made in order to reduce the number of people at the fairgrounds at any given time, hopefully decreasing the chance of spreading COVID-19. Only people with wristbands, which will be distributed to exhibitors, will be allowed into the fairgrounds.
“My job, as well as the other board members on this board and the elected officials that are here, our job should be to protect the safety of our children, ourselves and the community,” Fair Board President Eric Garber said.
The Junior Fair Board submitted a schedule at the request of the Senior Fair Board that limits each species to a single day at the fair. But Shelby County Extension Educator Cassie Dietrich said the Junior Fair members prefer an option that would space out shows more.
Morgan Meyer, the Junior Fair Board president, said allowing animals to be at the fairgrounds multiple days would be best for the livestock and exhibitors.
“We understand that the animals may not be able to be here all seven days,” she said. “We would like to have them here for at least a few days. This puts less stress on the animals as well as the exhibitors. We also believe it gives the exhibitors more of the fair experience, and it will allow the Junior Fair members to strengthen their personal skills and grow more with their responsibilities.”
Along with stress on animals and exhibitors, Junior Fair members and the public expressed concerns that it could take 15 to 16 hours to complete all the shows for a single species such as swine. They said they’re worried about teens driving home after such a long day and the increased risk of automobile accidents that could cause.
“I will make it a point, from me, that no child is going to be at danger going home,” Garber said. “If I’ve got to let them go at 5 o’clock and me run the show, then I’ll do so.”
Fair Board member Judy Beuhler said this year’s fair won’t be like fairs of the past because of the COVID-19 pandemic and restrictions it’s caused. The Junior Fair Board might have to cut some shows from its schedule if they can’t be fit into one day, she said.
“I was under the impression when the Junior Fair Board left the meeting last month that they were going to work on a schedule so that they could have species one day,” Beuhler said. “And I assumed that they would have to chop some of their classes like showmanship or something so they could fit it in one day because we’re all going to have to give and take because it isn’t going to be the same. We can’t. We can’t afford to have it all.”
But Senior Fair Board members said the guidance they received from the state and Sidney-Shelby County Health Department limits their options.
And responding to a comment from a Junior Fair Board member that there’s always risks, Garber said the COVID-19 pandemic is more serious than other diseases.
“The government didn’t mandate that we shut down fairs at the very beginning of swine flu either,” the Fair Board president said. “He didn’t shut down businesses. He didn’t shut down other things as well. It’s a little bit different.”
Garber said he met with Rusty Schwepe, a registered sanitarian at the Sidney-Shelby County Health Department, to figure out options for this year’s Junior Fair.
“The biggest thing he said is, ‘Eric, if you have people out at this hog show like we typically do (and) 14 days, three weeks later all of a sudden 10, 12, 14, 18, 20 people in Shelby County get COVID-19 and they link it back to the Shelby County Fair, what look is that?’ And I said, ‘Will we be liable?’ And he said, ‘I can’t answer that,’” Garber said.
Schwepe advised the Shelby County Fair should follow the state’s recommendations to limit crowds, promote wearing face masks and using hand sanitizer, and keep people spaced apart. Ultimately, though, the decision on whether or not to host a fair is up to the Fair Board, he said Thursday afternoon.
“It’s their decision, totally,” Schwepe said.
Along with health and liability concerns, budgetary concerns were another factor in this year’s fair plans. Initially it was projected the Junior Fair shows would cost $83,000 to host.
The Junior and Senior fair boards were able to cut expenses and reduce costs to $71,323. There’s still hope they could further reduce costs.
As of Wednesday’s meeting, $56,885.91 had been raised to finance this year’s Junior Fair activities.
“If any of the sponsors are in here, I want to say thank you for what we have raised,” Garber said. “Junior Fair Board did a fantastic job.”
Proposals to spread shows across additional days and adding camping would increase costs. The Senior Fair Board is willing to contribute to the costs of hosting the Junior Fair activities, but it has to be fiscally responsible in doing so, Garber said.
“I want to have a full fair this year, but obviously we can’t,” he said. “What we can’t do is jeopardize anybody’s chance for next year to have a full fair.”
Shelby County Maintenance Supervisor Chris Roediger said the Fair Board already has lost $20,000 this year because rentals for weddings, graduations, tractor shows, gun shows and livestock shows have been canceled.
The Senior Fair Board did leave open the possibility of moving poultry and alpaca shows to July 31, which presently is scheduled as a cleaning day, to give swine exhibitors access to both show rings on July 29 and speed up their shows.
The Fair Board also approved a single day of harness racing on July 29 with no spectators or betting allowed. The Shelby County Fair will make $3,500 from the Ohio Harness Horsemen’s Association for hosting the races.
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