With the threat of the global Coronavirus pandemic hanging over us, the Fulton County Fair Board made a difficult decision, Tuesday evening, June 16, for which it will never receive appropriate recognition.
The board voted 8-6 to hold only a junior fair and to allow spectatorless harness racing in 2020.
Opting to eliminate much of the annual fair disappointed thousands, and delivers an incalculable blow to the economy of the county. The fair is a combination of agricultural exposition, entertainment event, and food festival. It is a social event that people plan for all year.
The fair packs more than a quarter of a million people into the fairgrounds each year… as many as 75,000 in a day.
Lance Himes, Interim Director of the Ohio Department of Health, issued an order reopening “county fairs and animal exhibitions, with exceptions,” earlier in the day, Tuesday, June 16.
The Fair Board must follow the rules and orders of the state. Those persons who are vilifying the board for its decision should take the time to read the order and ask themselves how the rules could be followed with a “regular” fair.
The order states, “businesses and operations shall continue to comply with social distancing requirements as defined in this order, including by maintaining six-foot social distancing for both employees and members of the public when possible, including, but not limited to, when anyone is standing in line.”
The Fair Board would have had to designate “with signage, tape, or by other means, six-foot spacing for employees and customers in line to maintain appropriate distance.
“Fair boards and managers should conduct the fair in a manner that discourages the large gathering of people on the midway or on other parts of the fairgrounds. Where possible, the fair should provide oneway traffic in buildings or other areas, where doing so will help people maintain social distancing.”
Anyone who has been to the Fulton County Fair knows that maintaining six-foot social distancing would be impossible most places on the fairgrounds… especially on the midway. And there’s no way the Fair Board could enforce that order.
A few more points in the order from the ODH director:
“Businesses must require all employees to wear facial coverings” except for certain exceptions, and “businesses must provide written justification, upon request, explaining why an employee is not required to wear a facial covering in the workplace. At a minimum, facial coverings shall be cloth/fabric and cover an individual’s nose, mouth, and chin” are also requirements.
“The number of spectators shall be limited to one-half the seated capacity of the grandstand… No grandstand event shall have more than 2,500 seated spectators.
“Food concessions shall comply with the standard RestartOhio COVID 19 rules for restaurants. These include six-foot spacing marks for those in line, no self-serve areas, condiments placed on food by server or in self-contained packets, and if there is a seating area, the tables/ benches must be six feet apart to assure distance between parties.”
It’s simple. A full fair would create an almost-perfect environment for spreading the virus.
Fulton County has come through the pandemic relatively unscathed. Out of the 42,000 residents of the county, only 53 so far have come down with COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus. Fulton County is one of 16 of 88 Ohio counties that hasn’t yet suffered a death.
Had the Fair Board opted to go with the full fair, and if people became sick, the board would have been scorned for its decision. Fact is, the Fulton County Fair Board was in a no-win situation.
By opting to go with a safer, smaller, junior fair, the fair board disappointed thousands– but possibly kept thousands from getting sick and possibly dying.