By Dusty Sonnenberg
On Tuesday, June 9, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted, along with Ohio Senate President, Larry Obhof (R-Medina) and Ohio Speaker of the House of Representatives, Larry Householder (R-Glenford) sent a letter to Ohio Fair Board members acknowledging the challenges COVID-19 has presented in conducting junior fair activities in a safe manner, and doing it in a way that “works financially.”
To help offset the expense of necessary health and sanitation practices that must be implemented due to the coronavirus, each fair that conducts a junior fair this year will receive $50,000. Fairs that do not conduct a junior fair this year will receive $15,000 that can be used towards next year’s fair to help offset the cost of conducting it safely. They also announced that if a fair has been canceled, they can apply for a new date with the Ohio Department of Agriculture.
The guidelines for the conduct of fairs originally released as a part of the Responsible Restart Ohio was referenced and encouraged as best practices to follow, however revised guidelines for county and independent fairs were also released with the letter. “Conducting the fair solely according to the guidelines contained in this new document shall be considered sufficient to satisfy your public health obligations,” stated the letter from the Gov. DeWine.
In the revised guidelines, fair boards and managers are encourage to conduct the fair in a manner that discourages the large gathering of people on the midway or other parts of the fair grounds. Where possible it encourages fairs to provide one-way traffic in buildings and other areas to help people maintain social distancing.
The revised guidelines say that livestock competitions can be held in the same manner as they have in the past, with a few exceptions. Participants, spectators, and the judge are encouraged when possible to maintain a distance of 6 feet apart. The judge is encouraged to wear a mask when close to a junior fair member showing the animal. Family members should be given priority to viewing areas, and should stay in family unit groups, and maintain a distance of 6 feet between groups. Livestock auctions are encouraged, but not required, to be done virtual.
Non-livestock exhibitions and judging shall, where applicable, follow the same rules as those for animal exhibitions.
Barns and other fair buildings are to be open as much as possible to allow good ventilation.
Grandstand events shall limit the number of spectators to one half the seating capacity of the grandstand, and no event shall have more than 2,500 seated spectators. A distance of 6 feet shall be maintained between seated spectators or family groups.
Food concessions shall comply with the standard Restart Ohio COVID-19 rules for restaurants, which include six-foot spacing marks for those in line, no self-serve areas, and all seating must be six feet apart between parties.
Camping should follow the standards outlined in “Ohio COVID-19 Responsible Restart Ohio” plans for camping and campgrounds.
Harness Racing must follow guidelines established by the Ohio Racing Commission called “Protocols for a Safe Return to Racing.”
If a fair has amusement rides, it should comply with all orders of the Ohio Department of Health and the Ohio Department of Agriculture.
In addition to the regular restrooms, the fair shall provide sanitation stations at convenient places throughout the fairgrounds. These stations shall include sanitizer. These must be placed near food concessions and in barns. These must be maintained so that hand sanitizer is always available.
Fair board members, staff, volunteers, exhibitors, vendors, and participants must all follow good hygiene that is informed by the coronavirus danger: wash hands frequently, use hand sanitizer, cough into sleeves. Attempt to avoid gathering in groups and attempt to maintain social distancing. Individuals should perform a daily health assessment and stay home if they have a fever, cough, or other signs of possible COVID-19.