County fair remains in limbo

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Harness racing has been approved for the 2020 season and is scheduled to be held at the 2020 Carroll County Fair, without spectators.

By Carol McIntire, Editor

Will there be a 2020 Carroll County Fair? If there is, what will it look like?

County junior fair members, concession owners, open class participants and those who simply love the fair, will have to wait until June 2 for answers to those questions. The Ag Society (fair board) plans to meet at 7 p.m. that evening for a special session to decide the fate of the 2020 expo.

The decision to conduct a special meeting came during the May 18 meeting, held in the Rosebud Complex under social distancing guidelines, after hearing from John Ackerman, Ohio Fair Managers Association (OFMA) District 8 president.

Ackerman said a 14-member task force put together a list of “do’s and don’ts” for county fairs, which was presented to Governor Mike DeWine. DeWine is expected to present guidance to fair boards Thursday (May 21).

“DeWine will determine what part of a fair we can have. One thing is for sure: It’s not going to be a fair like we are used to,” Ackerman told the group via telephone conference call. “It will be very difficult to do just a junior fair. I’ve looked at cost estimates from fairs in our district and they range from $30,000 to $50,000 just for a junior fair. Without gate revenues, it will be very difficult.”

Ackerman emailed information from state officials and the OFMA for review by the board. “You are probably getting tired of hearing from me, but I want to pass along all the information I have to help you make a decision,” he stated.

Director Ray Rummell asked each member to read the material and be prepared to discuss it at the June 2 meeting.

“We have to take the emotion out of the decision on whether or not to have a fair,” Rummell told the group. “It has to be a business decision.”

Longtime Director Jim Long offered his opinion, saying, “It’s wonderful how the community supports our youth at the livestock sales, but it gives the kids a false sense of reality. This may be a lesson for everyone that life isn’t always fair.”

He noted everyone knows how much he likes the fair and made the point that when the grandstand burnt in 1942, the county fair was held without a grandstand until the new one was built.

“However, with the additional costs for chemicals for cleaning and manpower, etc. to meet the requirements to have a fair this year, I don’t think it’s worth what we have to go through just a prove a point,” he said.

Director Wayne Ferguson noted harness racing has been approved and will be held, but without spectators. The board agreed to host races during the April meeting.

Different options were discussed for showing and selling junior fair animals, cost to do an online auction and even the possibility of not having a fair before agreeing that making any decision before hearing from Governor DeWine would be premature.

The OFMA recommends deciding on whether or not to host fairs eight weeks prior to the opening date of the fair. Legislators say six weeks is sufficient. The Carroll County Fair is scheduled July 20-26.

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