Junior Fair only this year


(Posted May 27, 2020)

By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor

The Madison County Senior Fair Board voted unanimously on May 20 to hold only a Junior Fair this year. That means no open class events, amusement rides, carnival games, or infield entertainment. The event will focus solely on youths and their projects with no general admission.

With fair week set for July 12-18 and uncertainty about what restrictions will be in place at that time regarding the coronavirus (COVID-19), the board needed to choose a direction and start working out logistics as best they can, said Darrell Champer, board president.

“We were running out of time. We held off as long as we could,” he said.

Champer and other fair leaders have been in close contact with the Ohio Fair Managers Association, legislators, and Gov. Mike DeWine’s fair committee. Some of the restrictions on the table for putting on a full fair would put a significant strain on the fair board’s finances.

“Reducing head counts to 50 percent–we can’t afford to do that, plus policing people being six feet apart and shutting down restrooms multiple times a day to clean them… It’s all extra,” Champer said. “It’s hard to commit funds to things we know we can’t recover from.”

By choosing to do a Junior Fair only, organizers will be working with a smaller group of people in a structured format. But that still involves roughly 600 4-Hers and 100 FFA exhibitors and their parents, along with judges, organizers and volunteers. And it still will be a strain financially.

“It will be a huge challenge to complete,” Champer said. “But Junior Fair is the essence of the fair, and I signed up for (Senior Fair Board) because of the kids. I think it’s important to see it through for the kids.”

The Senior Fair Board is working with the Junior Fair Board and 4-H key leaders to come up with a plan. They are watching what other counties are doing, especially Franklin, Marion and Pickaway, whose fairs are coming up soon. They also are gathering ideas from fairs in other states and, of course, watching and waiting on direction from state officials.

“We need to look at each project area and figure out how to make this work. Hopefully, over the next couple of weeks we will work out the details,” said Deetra Huntington, Junior Fair coordinator.

Organizers will use the current Junior Fair schedule as a framework to hold general project judging, livestock judging, and the king and queen contest. They hope to have some kind of food court available and plan to permit camping, all with additional regulations in place for health and safety. Camping fees are due June 1 with the option to roll previously paid fees to 2021.

Organizers also plan to hold a livestock auction, though there’s a good chance it will be done virtually, depending on social distancing requirements at the time.

“The junior show we did for the last 100 years is not going to look the same, but we would like to preserve as much of the fair experience as we can for the kids of 2020,” Champer said.

Ultimately, Madison County Public Health will have the final say on the plan that fair organizers put together. Champer said Chris Cook, the county health commissioner, has provided valuable guidance.

“He’s been very helpful. We’ve been having virtual meetings basically every week, and he joins in on them. He was really helpful in making our decision to go with a Junior Fair only,” Champer said.

As for covering expenses for the Junior Fair, Champer and Huntington both said donations and sponsorships are extremely critical this year.

Typically, the junior and senior fair boards work together to cover Junior Fair expenses–which include everything from paying judges and buying trophies to prepping show arenas. The Junior Fair Board collects donations. The Senior Fair Board contributes a portion of proceeds from concessions, general admission, camping fees and other fair activities.

Without a full fair, some of those revenue sources won’t be available this year. Additionally, the COVID-19 shutdown has prevented the Senior Fair Board from renting out the grounds for other events over the last couple of months, resulting in a loss of approximately $60,000 in revenue, Champer said.

“We’re behind the 8-ball. We do not have enough money to cover the Junior Fair,” he continued. “We’re going to lean on the public to help support this to get these kids through this time.”

As they work out finances and logistics, organizers are asking everyone involved to be prepared to be flexible.

In a letter posted on the Senior Fair Board’s Facebook page on May 20, the board stated: “Understanding that there are still many unknowns, those involved with the Madison County Fair should be prepared to experience change and adapt to alternative ways of doing things, with health and safety at top of mind.”

Questions can be directed to the Madison County Fair Office at (740) 852-1654.


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