This summer's Ohio State Fair is the latest event to be scuttled because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Ohio Expositions Commission voted unanimously on Thursday morning to cancel the 2020 fair, which was scheduled for July 29-August 9 at the fairgrounds in Columbus. Members say it would be too difficult to adhere to social distancing protocols.
"Knowing how easily the virus spreads in large groups, we believe it is the safest path forward for the health and safety of all Ohioans," said Andy Coehrel, chair of the commission, in a statement. "The financial ramifications of hosting a reduced-capacity Fair would be too great, and we need to protect the Ohio State Fair for future generations."
To us, the highlight of summer is gathering with our fellow Ohioans, enjoying the tradition of the #ohiostatefair. Togetherness is a challenge this year, and we have made the difficult decision to cancel this year’s fair. Read more https://t.co/Tzi5pjoEnb pic.twitter.com/rHyYutryji— Ohio State Fair (@OhioStateFair) May 21, 2020
Almost 935,000 people attended last year's Ohio State Fair over its 12-day run.
"It hurts me for cancelling," fair manager Virgil Strickler said on a press call Thursday. "But it’s the right thing to do. It’s the thing that is going to protect all Ohioans that would come to our fair, and everybody else visitor wise."
The state fair contributes nearly $75 million to the state's economy, according to 2018 data.
The cancellation also impacts farmers, vendors and 4H members.
The fair is a big opportunity for 4H participants to win college scholarships, and it's a big money maker for those who auction off livestock.
"The Ohio State Fair livestock exhibitors get so much more money for their projects," says Ty Higgins of the Ohio Farm Bureau. "It’s not just because the animals are outstanding in their categories, but those sponsors, and those in the auction that want to support these kids, support them in a big way. So the exhibits in the state fair go for much more than the animal or the project is even worth."
But Higgins says this is more than just a monetary loss - farmers have been gearing up all year for this event.
"The Ohio State Fair is a showcase for Ohio’s agriculture industry," he says. "Farmers and their families take a lot of pride in showing those that aren’t involved in farming what they do every day on the farm to supply Ohioans with our food supply. 4H kids see the Ohio state Fair as the highlight of not just their summer, but their entire year."
The last time the fair was cancelled was during World War II, from 1942-1945.
"In 1946, we were back," said Alicia Shoults of the Ohio Expo Center & State Fair. "We’ve unfortunately as a fair been through difficult times as a country through tragedy, through a different type of war, and now the war is against this pandemic, and we’ll be there on the other side."
This is also not the first time the fair has been cancelled because of disease outbreak: the very first Ohio State Fair was cancelled due to an outbreak of cholera.
The 2021 fair is currently scheduled for July 28-August 8.