OHIO VALLEY — Gov. Mike DeWine’s fair advisory group released guidelines on Thursday for county fair boards, agricultural societies and county health departments to safely operate junior fairs for the summer of 2020.
In a press release from the governor’s office released on Thursday afternoon, Gov. DeWine is quoted saying “The decisions about county and independent fairs need to be made locally because each county and independent fair is unique and has different challenges,” said Governor DeWine. “Conditions may change over the course of the summer, however, we are asking all fair boards to comply with all of the orders of the Ohio Department of Health and the guidelines for other sectors that would also apply to fairs, such as for food service and rides.”
The guidelines, which are part of the “Responsible RestartOhio” plan were given by the governor and the Ohio Department of Health. There are mandatory guidelines set by the state, but the local health departments will be working with the fair board and agricultural societies to create a plan that complies with all executive orders and orders from the Ohio Department of Health at the time of the fair.
For junior fair animal exhibits, the mandatory guidelines are as follows: Must conduct daily symptom assessments; Anyone experiencing symptoms must stay home; Limit livestock exhibitions to 10 exhibitors in the show ring at one time; The microphone must be sanitized between speakers or each speaker must have his/her own dedicated microphone; Spectators and others in the exhibition area must follow current orders regarding mass gatherings and social distancing; Animals will be permitted to stay on the fairgrounds for no more than 72 hours.
In the barns, the number of handlers and pen placements must follow social distancing guidelines in effect at that time.
Animals are not allowed to be present in the ring for auctions and the area is limited to buyers and immediate family unless building capacity allows for more.
Food vendors and concessions are allowed and must comply with the state’s standards for restaurants and bars. They must ensure that set ups allow for six feet between parties for ordering and dinning and have appropriate markings. No self-service areas are allowed and condiments will be placed on the item by the vendor or offered in individual packets.
Camping is permitted and must comply with the RestartOhio plan for camping and campgrounds. No clustering of groups is allowed and it is suggested that entry doors and outdoor seating of campers do not face each other.
Amusement rides can operate in compliance with all executive orders, orders from the department of health and standards outlined for amusement rides, which are coming soon from the governor’s office.
All fair boards must require employees, volunteers and participants to wear facial coverings, except when: showing in the show ring, where prohibited by law, in violation of documented industry standards, not advisable for health reasons, in violation of the business’ documented safety policies, when an employee is working alone in an assigned area, or when there is a practical reason to not wear a facial covering in the workplace.
There will be no physical contact between judges, exhibitors, participants, buyers, sellers, etc. Fairgoers are also not allowed to touch animals.
The fair boards must ensure that adequate hand washing and sanitizing stations are in place around common areas, facilities and amusement ride areas. The restroom facilities must be functioning and meet all guidelines and limit the number of users at one time. Signs must be placed around these areas regarding social distancing and good hygiene.
Buildings must be limited to a specific number of people at one time, per social distancing guidelines at the time of the fair.
Skillathon for animal exhibitors needs to be conducted with social distancing and have barriers between the exhibitor and judge. Surfaces will also be sanitized. The state recommends conducting a virtual skillathon.
Non-animal exhibitors must be spaced at least six feet apart and common areas will be cleaned.
Harness racing will follow the protocols for safe return to racing, which will be released from the state in the coming weeks.
The Meigs County Fair Board posted on the fair’s Facebook page that they were “very disappointed with the state level of government and timing to present the guidelines for the upcoming fair. We will do our best to find the most practical and feasible way to move forward with the 2020 Meigs County Fair in the following weeks.”
Gallia County Fair Board Secretary Tim Massie said the board will be meeting on June 4 to discuss the format of the 2020 Gallia County Junior Fair.
The state of West Virginia has not released any new information about fairs and festivals for 2020, but as previously reported, The Mason County Fair Board will be meeting on Monday, June 1 and it is expected for the fair to be the main topic at that meeting.
Also as previously reported by Ohio Valley Publishing, Jackson County, W.Va., and Vinton County, Ohio, canceled their fairs for the 2020 year. Athens County and Jackson County in Ohio announced alternate fair schedules with no amusement rides and making livestock shows the priority.
This week, Lawrence County, Ohio, which borders Gallia County, had an announcement from the fair board that they were canceling the 2020 fair.
Additionally, the governor’s press release states, “The Ohio Department of Agriculture is in the process of distributing all state funding available for Ohio’s 94 county and independent fairs.”
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Kayla Hawthorne is a staff writer for Ohio Valley Publishing. Reach her at (304) 675-1333, ext. 1992.