WAPAKONETA – “We were so close,” said Ed Doenges, Auglaize County Fair director. The fair, set to run Aug. 2-8, falls after a July 31 deadline set by Ohio Governor Mike DeWine which restricts all Ohio county fairs to the Junior Fair level.
In a July 28 press conference, the governor said this was in reaction to a reported increase of coronavirus infections among those attending fairs. The governor has said in the past controlling corona infections was critical as the 2020-21 school year approaches.
Doenges says he is disappointed they could not have the full fair as they were ready to deal with controlling the coronavirus while entertaining the public.
“It (the closure) was not unexpected but we were so close to having the chance to prove we were ready,” said Doenges. “But we understand that the governor felt he had to make that call.”
This means the grandstand shows, entertainment and rides are canceled.
There will be food service available.
“Two of the three local groups that serve food said they will still come,” he said.
The Junior Fair, which involves over 1,900 exhibits by county children, ranging from livestock to sewing, will go on.
“The junior fair people were involved with the planning from the beginning, so they know what to do,” he said.
For Doenges, the next chore is to begin to contact the 70-plus vendors who run games and food, plus over 60 businesses scheduled to have exhibits in the commercial buildings. There is also all the entertainment which included grandstand events and music around the grounds.
A lot of money is involved. Doenges said he is not sure how much this will cost the fair board. There are a number of deposits already made and he was unsure what money could be returned, or whether the money could be forwarded to next year’s fair.
“We have lost $70,000 already since closures began in March,” he said. Other events coming up this fall, such as weddings, he felt should be small enough to fall under state quarantine guidelines. “But we will see how things go.”
The fair is not a huge money maker for the Fair Board.
“We are happy if we can break even and maybe even put a little money in the bank after the expenses of the Fair are paid,” he said.
“That is why we run all those fundraisers for building improvements throughout the year,” he added.
The governor also said there will be a 10 p.m. curfew each night. Doenges said they would be able to meet that deadline because all the shows will be over, the campers at their places and the food stands shut down.
In regards to the junior fair, when young people exhibit their animals, plans have been made to maintain social distancing.
For example, in the livestock area, families are asked to stay in the arena only while their children are exhibiting. Once their exhibit is done, the family is asked to move out so the next family can come in.
Similar restrictions are in place for the barns. At show time and weigh in, only the exhibitor and one other family member is allowed inside.
Families will not be allowed to camp in the barn to avoid people crowding together.
One-way traffic will be maintained through the barns and commercial buildings and every entrance will have sanitation stations.
At a special meeting Wednesday night at 7 p.m., the fair board has outstanding issues still to consider.
For one, the admission price for the fair must still be decided. Doenges said there are people who have already purchased season passes, so they must decide what is fair.
Another issue is whether to keep the Gospel Tent open. Original plans had the size of the tent was doubled to allow wide spacing among the same size audience.
Finally, it must be decided if certain livestock shows qualify under the Junior Fair standards.
Doenges said that the fair schedule is only available online this year at “https://auglaizecountyfair.org/ because the multiple changes made printing a hard copy schedule unwise.
The writer is a regular contributor to the Sidney Daily News.