Medina County Joins Portage, Wayne in Limiting Fair Activities
Medina County Fair
The Medina County Agricultural Society Board of Directors met Sunday evening, and with the help of the Medina County Health Commissioner, voted to put on a limited fair Aug. 3 to 9, with only Junior Fair activities that will not be open to the public.
Fairgoers will be limited to the Junior Fair participants and up to 10 selected guests.
The board also voted to remove rides and grandstand events and limit concessions, free entertainment and merchants.
This is the third time the status of the fair changed this year. On June 4, the board announced the fair was postponed because of the coronavirus, before announcing on June 12 it was back on, according to the Medina Gazette.
Medina County Fair Director Chuck Stiver said a lot has changed since last month’s decision to put on the fair, including Medina County becoming a “red” area on Ohio’s color-coded Public Health Advisory System that tracks COVID-19 cases throughout the state and Gov. Mike DeWine’s statewide mask mandate.
“The world as we know it has changed since we last visited our decision,” Stiver said. “A couple fairs that were early on, had some problems. [They] had plans in place, but had trouble enforcing those plans. And as a result, [they] saw some COVID outbreaks that were traced back to the fairs. So in the best interest of public health, we made the decision to narrow the focus down to our youth projects. We feel that it's much more manageable than a full fair.”
In a press release issued July 27 by Stiver, he asked those who already purchased grandstand and/or admission tickets or paid their entry fees to be patient as the board works through the cancellations. Updates will be posted on the Medina County Fair website as they become available.
In a normal year, the fair brings in slightly more than $2 million in revenue. The Medina County Fairgrounds, which is a large venue, has several buildings to maintain, utility bills and employees to pay, which the fair’s revenue covers.
Stiver said scaling back the fair will have a dramatic impact on the Medina County Fair’s financial situation as the majority of their profit comes from gate revenue, such as ticket sales.
“It becomes a balance between gate revenue and public health and how you control that,” Stiver said. “We have received some financial aid. The state gave us $50,000, at least to have a Junior Fair.” Stiver said the fair also qualified for payroll protection which it is utilizing, as well as a loan to help sustain the fair for the time being.
“Our hope is that we won't have to tap into that money and really after the first year, we can simply just pay that back,” he said. “But it is there in case we need it to survive on until next year’s fair.”
Last year, the Medina County Fair welcomed 89,482 paid attendees and a total of 98,000 attendees altogether. 4-H volunteers who come to help the 4-H and junior fair clubs are not charged to attend the fair. Vendors are also not charged for attendance; they are just responsible for spot rentals at the fairgrounds.
As agriculture is one of Ohio’s largest economic drivers, county fairs have a deeply rooted history in the state. Stiver said he sees the county fairs as being a way for communities to gather, similar to the homecoming festivities at football games.
“It’s an event people look forward to, an opportunity to exhibit their youth projects, as well as the open class projects. It's still important in agriculture. There is some competitive spirit there, but I think most importantly it's that aspect of homecoming where friends, neighbors, folks you may have never met, come together for one week,” Stiver said.
Fairs provide a time where people can “take some time just to sit and visit with folks,” he said. Families come together to help get junior fair projects together, sometimes working on them for an entire year, Stiver said. “There’s a lot of pride in that.”
Portage County Randolph Fair
This year’s fair, set for Aug. 25 to 30, will be reduced to a Junior Fair only that is not open to the public. Attendees will be limited to Junior Fair participants, their predesignated, immediate family members, preregistered livestock buyers, and designated volunteers, according to a July 27 update on the fair's website. A schedule of events will be released when it is completed, including information for livestock buyers.
Wayne County Fair
The Wayne County Fair, set for Sept. 12 to Sept. 17, announced July 26 it will host a full Junior Fair for 4-H and FFA participants. The Senior Fair at the self-described foremost agricultural fair in Ohio will be modified, with no open-class still exhibits or open-class animals housed on the grounds for exhibit.
Exceptions include the County Truck/Tractor Pull, the Pari-Mutuel Harness Races, Horse Pulling Contest and the Draft Pony/Draft Horse/Miniature Horse, Hitch classes that will be trailered in and out for their events.
All of the main grandstand entertainment events are canceled and will be replaced with free events like the Wayne County Truck/Tractor Pull and the Mounted Shooters, along with some signed local singing talent throughout the week.
Food concessions, commercial exhibits and games will still be featured on a reduced scale. There will be no rides. Sunday church services will be offered at 8:30 and 10:30 a.m. to comply with social distancing.
Editor's note: This article was produced through a reporting partnership with the Collaborative News Lab @ Kent State University.