Some area counties still plan on fairs this summer

Scenes from the 2018 Montgomery County Fair, the first fair at the new fairgrounds on Infirmary Road in Jefferson Twp. TOM GILLIAM/CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHER

Some area counties — worried about the affect of canceling county fairs on the youth and the local economies — continue to plan for annual agricultural events admid the coronavirus pandemic.

On Thursday, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said he would leave the decision to hold a fair up to local communities. The Montgomery County Fair has been canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Montgomery County Agricultural Society Board of Directors voted on May 26 to cancel this year’s fair. The organization has started planning a Junior Fair Livestock Exposition that will be open to livestock exhibitors and their families.

Mark Jimison, president of the Montgomery County Agricultural Society, wasn’t certain of the economic affect of canceling the fair, but said missing it was “huge.”

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“I know a lot of families come in from out of town to see the animals, watch the shows and eat the good fair food,” Jimison said.

Jimison said the organization will probably know more details about the Junior Fair Livestock Exposition next week.

“It’s been a bad year for the graduates all around,” Jimison said of the class of 2020. “But we’re going to try to have something for them and their immediate families so that they get some sort of finish. We hope that might raise their spirits a bit.”

About 360 area kids participate in 4H clubs that directly participate in the Montgomery County Fair, Jimison said.

Ansley Kozarec of Farmersville, now 17, has been involved with 4H since she was 8. She was looking forward to showing her all white pig, Queso, this summer.

“We work all summer with our animals,” Kozarec said. “It’s nice to see people who don’t live on farms get to see and touch a pig. People will come and ask us about our animals and we get talk about them. I’m going to miss that.”

Since there will still be a show, Kozarec said she will continue to walk and feed Queso like she would in a normal fair year. Jimison said there will not be an auction this summer. This means Kozarec will not be able to make money off selling Queso.

However, the monetary loss is not top of mind for Kozarec and her friends.

“We’re losing a year of fair memories,” Kozarec said. “A lot of the best memories are made hanging out all week with your friends. This year there won’t be any camping, I’m not able to go to visit vendors and get my favorite meal there.”

Kozarec, who will be a senior in the fall, said she hopes there will be a normal fair next summer. She feels especially bad for her senior friends, who don’t get a normal last show this summer.

MORE: Gov. DeWine suggests junior fair portions only

“This is the one time you get to be with your friends and your community and I feel sad for what they’re going through right now,” Kozarec said.

The 2020 fair would have been the third at its new location in Jefferson Twp. after moving from the old fairgrounds site on South Main Street in Dayton, where it was held for 166 years. About 38,000 attended the fair last year, according to Lori Page, Montgomery County Agricultural Society deputy director and treasurer.

Brian Rismiller, the Darke County fair manager, said they are planning on having a fair.

The Darke County Fair is one of the biggest in Ohio, said Ryan Berry, executive director of the Darke County Visitor’s Bureau. Rismiller said over 160,000 people attended the Darke County Fair last summer, nearly three times the population of the county.

The Darke County Fair is scheduled for Aug. 21 through 29.

MORE: Group working to devise plan for county fairs to be held in some form this summer

“We’re still planning on a fair,” Rismiller said. “Fortunately our fair is in late August, so we have time to make a decision.”

Berry, with the visitor’s bureau, said that if the fair were canceled it would have a huge economic affect on the county.

“We absolutely need the Darke County Fair,” Berry said.

Berry said the fair is a huge draw for people outside of Darke County to come in. A canceled fair would impact local restaurants and hotels significantly, he said, especially with the Eldora races being canceled this summer, too.

“Hotels are already taking a huge hit,” Berry said. “I’ve talked to one that’s already had to lay off seven staff members.”

Nick Shellenberger, Miami County Fair Board president and manager of the fairgrounds, said with the fair a little more than two months away there is still a “spark of hope” that they can move forward with a full fair.

“The Miami County Fair is not only the exhibition of the work and accomplishments of our county and youth, but the annual renewal of relationships and renewal of purpose,” Shellenberger said.

Shellenberger said the fair board could be down about $175,000 if camping and amusement-related aspects of the fair have to be canceled.

“It’s going to be tough if we have to cancel the senior fair events and have to put together a junior fair. We’ll have to find new ways to raise money for the junior fair,” Shellenberger said.

The Miami County Fair Board is continuing to monitor the coronavirus situation and plans to make a final decision at its July board meeting, Shellenberger said.

“We’re really thankful for the patience of people in the county,” Shellenberger said. “We’re trying to keep as much open as possible. But it is more than likely that the fair will look a little different this year.”

Also on Thursday, the governor and health department released guidelines for how county fair boards and agricultural societies can safely hold junior fairs.

RELATED: Guidelines for county fairs to focus on limiting crowds, social distancing

If auctions occur at the fair, animals are not permitted in the auction ring. The viewing gallery will be limited to buyers and family, the regulations state.

Patrons are not permitted to pet or touch the animals, according to those guidelines.

Some area county fairs are not sure what decision they’re doing to make yet.

Liz Jordan, secretary of the Greene County Agricultural Society and Fairgrounds, said the organization has been monitoring the coronavirus pandemic and will make a decision “one way or another” on June 15, which is the next board meeting.

Jordan said if the fair does take place, it likely would look different from fairs in years past. The Greene County Agricultural Society also is looking at potentially only holding a junior fair, like Montgomery County has decided to do.

“What people don’t realize is that is the expensive part of the fair. The rides and other things fund the junior fair,” Jordan said. “The kids just work so hard, even the ones doing projects without animals. People so look forward to the fair.”

MORE: 2020 Montgomery County Fair canceled due to coronavirus

The Butler County Fair Board voted to cancel the Butler County Fair Tuesday. The fair board is looking at options to allow junior fair exhibitors to show their projects. The Butler County Fair was set to run from July 26 to Aug. 1.

The Ohio State Fair also was canceled due to coronavirus pandemic concerns.

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