Hoping to put on ‘as normal a fair’ as possible

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Messenger photo by Dedra Cordle
Cade Smith of West Jefferson positions his alpaca, “Ernie,” in front of the judge during the overall showmanship event at last year’s Madison County Fair. Most of the shows involving large animals will take place in the Eby Arena at this year’s fair.

(Posted March 15, 2021)

By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor

Stephanie McCloud, director of the Ohio Department of Health, signed a new order on March 11 that permits fairs and animal exhibitions to reopen and sets new rules for COVID-19 safety at such events (see highlights at the end of this story).

“It’s welcome news,” said Paul Gross, Madison County senior fair board president, who said plans for this year’s Madison County Fair are in full swing. “I think it’s important to have something the community and the kids can rally around.”

Last year’s fair was restricted almost exclusively to 4-H and FFA exhibitions. There were no rides, midway games or open livestock shows, and concessions were limited.

“This year, we’re hoping to go forward with as normal a fair as we can, but, as you know, it’s a day-to-day thing due to the pandemic,” said Dave Monnin, fair board vice president.

This year’s Madison County Fair is scheduled for July 11-18. The fair board has added an extra day to the fair, running it from Saturday to Saturday, rather than the traditional Sunday to Saturday.

Several new features are planned, all of which are designed to bring more people to the fair, Gross said. Among them are significant, guaranteed prizes for open shows. For example, $1,000 will go to the grand champion steer exhibitor.

Following the absence of open shows at last year’s fair, “there’s a real pent-up demand and desire for kids to get out and exhibit,” Gross said. “We’re making a real concerted effort to have massive open shows… We hope to draw from around the state.”

Admission to this year’s fair will be $10. From 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. each day, that admission price will include rides. Gross said he hopes this will attract more people to the fair during the middle of the day.

Also new is a livestock show for youths who are not enrolled in 4-H or FFA. Current 4-H and FFA members will provide the animals and mentor the entrants. Just like other shows, judges and prizes will be involved.

“This is for kids who haven’t had the opportunity to show an animal but would like to give it a try. I think it’s going to be super cool for those kids,” Gross said. “It also will be great for the 4-H and FFA kids. They love to show what they know and help others. It embodies everything the program is about.”

As for nightly entertainment, several tried and true favorites are back on the schedule after a year hiatus. The week will kick off with the rodeo on the first Saturday. The dirt drag races, always a “crowd favorite,” Monnin said, are set for Sunday. Motocross will take place on Thursday, truck pulls on Friday, and the demolition derby on the second Saturday. The fair board is looking into securing entertainment for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday nights, as well.

Camping will be permitted with the same safety regulations the state issued last May, and more concessionaires are expected.

New COVID-19 safety rules for fairs

The Ohio Department of Health has issued a state order outlining new rules for COVID-19 safety at fairs and animal exhibitions. Highlights are as follows:

  • Everyone on the fairgrounds must wear a mask except when actively eating or drinking.
  • Six-foot social distancing must be maintained when possible, including when anyone is standing in line. Where possible, six-foot distancing should be marked with signage, tape or other means.
  • Organizers are to discourage large gatherings of people on the midway, in buildings or on other parts of the grounds. Where possible, organizers should arrange for one-way traffic.
  • The maximum number of spectators permitted at an outdoor grandstand event must be 30 percent of the grandstand’s capacity. The maximum number of spectators at an indoor event must be 25 percent of the building’s capacity.
  • Buildings accessible to the public must be open as much as possible to allow good ventilation.
  • Sanitation stations must be provided throughout the grounds, especially near food concessions and in barns.
  • During exhibitions, competitions and auctions, family members will have priority seating in the viewing area. Each family should group together in the viewing area, with six feet between families.
  • In areas designated for food and drink consumption, tables must be six feet apart and seat no more than 10 people.
  • The fair board must designate an on-site compliance officer for all hours of operation to ensure compliance with the state health order. This person will serve as the contact for the local health department and law enforcement agencies.

The order states that if the pandemic situation continues to improve, more restrictions will be lifted. If it deteriorates, additional, targeted restrictions will be made.

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