WAPAKONETA – The Gospel Tent was another COVID-related cancellation for the Aug. 2-8 Auglaize County Fair following a special Wednesday meeting of its Fair Board.
Admission cost to the fair and open livestock shows were the also part of the discussion.
Since Gov. Mike DeWine announced July 28 that all fairs in the state would be restricted to Junior Fair level only to control COVID-19 spread, the fair management had already decided to shut down all grandstand events, games and other entertainment.
However, the special meeting finalized any questions about the 2020 fair.
Auglaize Fair director Ed Doenges said that the Gospel Tent, which attracted hundreds of people in the past, was canceled.
“We decided (having the Gospel Tent) was not worth the risk that we might get shut down halfway through the fair,” he said. “Our primary goal is to have a successful Junior Fair this year.”
He added that they were able to carry forward to 2021 deposit payments already paid out.
It was also decided that open livestock shows did not qualify as part of the Junior Fair. The problem lies in the fact that people could be coming from all parts of the state to exhibit their animals, which would violate the governor’s mandate banning movement across county lines.
The board decided to continue to charge $8 for individual admission to the fair. He said many people had already purchased season passes.
It was unknown how many young people and their families will choose to attend the Junior Fair.
“They are bringing in their livestock today (Friday) and tomorrow (Saturday),” he said.
He said that then they will know better how many may decline to attend the Fair due to COVID-19 concerns. Before the COVID-19 pandemic began, 1,900 exhibits of agriculture, livestock and fine arts were expected.
In regard to the mandatory requirement to wear masks, Doenges said it was the obligation of the Senior Fair Board to enforce the wearing of masks. He said the Auglaize County Health Department would not be on the grounds looking for violations, but if they were made aware of violations, could come out.
Doenges said, since the people attending the Fair this year will all be Auglaize County residents, he felt confident that attendees would all do the right thing in order to have a successful fair for the young FFA and 4-H exhibitors who are coming to show their year of work.
“I’m confident that people will be appreciative of the efforts that have been made,” he said, and will wear masks while attending the fair.
“This is just one fair, for one year, with a lot more to come over the years,” he added. “It’s been tough but let’s all do the right thing and move on.”
He said back in the day, county fairs were strictly agricultural, primarily to display livestock and agricultural products.
“It is more recently that the fair took on a more carnival atmosphere, creating a good mix of entertainment and agricultural displays that made the fair what people appreciate and love attending.”
The vendors paying to sell products at the fair as well as admission to grandstand shows were a large part of the income used to meet expenses. Doenges said their goal has always been to make enough income to break even. He said since the COVID-19 restrictions had shut down fairground events in March, they had lost over $70,000 in income.
Restrictions will be in place to enforce social distancing at the Junior Fair.
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.
Doenges said that the fair schedule is only available online this year at “https://auglaizecountyfair.org/.
The writer is a regular contributor to the Sidney Daily News.