XENIA — The 2020 Greene County Fair will soon know its fate.
Whether it will go on, and in what capacity, is now in the hands of the Greene County Fair Board. President Dan Bullen said the board plans to make a final decision during its meeting Monday, June 15.
Right now, board and committee members are evaluating the Responsible RestartOhio: County Fairs guidelines, released by the governor’s office and Ohio Department of Health last week.
“We have to look through that, figure out what’s going on, how things are going … see how we have a fair,” Bullen said by phone Tuesday.
The document recommends fairs to limit activities to Junior Fair events, which focus on 4-H and FFA participation.
Fairs like Fayette, Franklin, Madison and Warren counties will host a Junior Fair only this year, while Butler and Montgomery counties are among those considering modifications of that option. Fairs must also follow any state orders in effect.
If — after working with the local health department — the fair board decides it can safely host attractions, concessions and exhibitors beyond Junior Fair activities, it must comply with a three-page set of state guidelines.
Mandatory guidelines include the wearing of facial coverings for employees, volunteers and participants, except when showing in the ring; setting up concession stands six feet apart; prohibiting fair-goers from touching animals and physical contact among judges, exhibitors, participants, buyers and sellers; establishing building capacity; and installing seat-cover dispensers and motion-sensing faucets, soap and towel dispensers in restrooms.
The fair would inevitably look different.
“[If] you can only have a limited amount of handlers helping in the barn, and a limited number of spectators in the barn watching — do you decide it’s grandma, grandpa, mom, dad? Who gets to watch?” Bullen said.
When it comes down to it, a lot of the decision has to do with finances, he explained. Limiting the fair to Junior Fair activities could cut a large portion of the fair’s income — like gate admission, carnival rides, entertainment and grandstand events.
“If we don’t have any of those, how do we make money to offset what it costs to have a Junior Fair? Financially can we handle this? Those are the discussions we’re having right now,” Bullen said.
The board president estimated a seven-day-long Junior Fair would cost around $124,000. A traditional full fair usually costs closer to $500,000. That includes all the money-generating items, including entertainment, which typically has a budget of its own around $100,000.
Food concessions usually bring in $40,000 to $50,000, but social distancing requirements might limit the number of vendors allowed. And the installation of motion-sensing faucets and dispensers in itself is estimated to cost $15,000.
Bullen said various ideas are being tossed around — like asking for donations instead of gate admission. If the fair does go on, he hopes maybe 4-Hers, their parents, and volunteers can help put it on and offset some costs.
Whatever plan the board decides to implement, Greene County Public Health will have to approve it first.
“We don’t want to say we canceled but we have to look at what it’s going to take to put on a Junior Fair and what the cost is going to be, and where does that income come from,” Bullen explained. “We’re a non-profit organization. We don’t have a lot of money; we run a budget year to year and don’t try to make a lot of money.”
The fairgrounds has also been hit during the COVID-19 pandemic by losing out on canceled events, like Hamvention, which are traditionally used to put on the fair. Bullen said it has lost at least $160,000.
“So many events are being canceled. Those seniors — will they lose their fair too? We hope that doesn’t happen, but I think at some point they understand it wasn’t because people didn’t want to do it,” Bullen said. “Four months ago would I ever think I’d be having this conversation? Then three months ago, look what changed us all.”