Ox Roast won’t take place this year

Dave Harper, the 2019 West Jefferson Ox Roast grand marshal, rides in the 69th Annual Ox Roast parade. This year’s Ox Roast has been cancelled.

(Posted June 10, 2020)

By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor

This year would have marked the 70th year for the West Jefferson Ox Roast, however, on June 8 the festival trustees announced their decision to cancel the event.

The three-day festival takes place over Labor Day weekend each year. The 2020 festival was set for Sept. 5-7.

“We have been closely monitoring the evolving (COVID-19) pandemic and all the regulations since the beginning, hoping for closure to ensure we could safely continue with our plans for this year’s Ox Roast. As we see other festivals and fairs and events across the state of Ohio canceling this year, it was not a decision we were hoping for,” the trustees stated in a message posted on the event’s website and Facebook page.

There are too many unknowns, said Jeff Pfeil, president of the West Jefferson Community Association which puts on the Ox Roast. What will the pandemic look like in three months? What safety regulations will be in place and how difficult will they be to implement? Will people feel comfortable attending large events? Will there be a spike in cases that shuts things down again?

“We can’t afford to gamble,” Pfeil said, referring both to finances and people’s health.

Part of planning the Ox Roast is ordering meat and wood to make the festival’s famous sandwiches. The trustees must make those order commitments in June. They felt it was too much of a financial risk to place the orders, not knowing for sure if they could hold the festival come September.

Whitney Stires, the 2018 Ox Roast queen, rides on a friend’s horse in last year’s Ox Roast parade.

In their statement, the trustees said they are “heartbroken” that they had to cancel the event, but they feel the decision is in the best interest of all participants.

“We’re disappointed,” Pfeil said. “I feel sorry for the vendors because, for a lot of them, it’s their livelihood, not just a weekend gig. The same for the ride companies.  I just hope they can survive this year and come back next year.”

The trustees thanked visitors, volunteers, sponsors, vendors, the festival queens, entertainers, crafters and the community for their support of the Ox Roast over the years.

“We’re hoping everything is straightened out so we can have it next year,” Pfeil said.

For more information about the West Jefferson Ox Roast, go to westjeffoxroast.org.

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