Editor’s Note: This report was made prior to the state’s written order regarding county fair operations limited to junior fair activities only. The order was released at 6 PM. Miami Valley Today will have an update at a later date on the fair’s plan going forward.
MIAMI COUNTY — Miami County Fair Manager Nick Shellenberger appears to be holding out hope that the Miami County Fair will get to happen as previously planned with both a senior and junior fair until a formal order comes from the state.
On Thursday, Shellenberger, who is also the Miami County Agricultural Society president, told the Miami County Commissioners the Miami County Fair plans to move forward as planned until there is a written and signed order from Gov. Mike DeWine regarding DeWine’s latest mandate that the remaining county fairs in Ohio be limited to junior fairs only.
“The biggest problem I’m facing right now with the fair is the governor went on TV and said some things about fairs and has not put that in writing,” Shellenberger said during the commissioners’ meeting. “So everybody is freaking out in the fair industry right now about this order from the governor, which is actually not even an order yet.”
Shellenberger went over the changing guidelines that county fairs have faced throughout the summer. He said eight weeks ago, DeWine told the state that he would find a way to make county fairs happen, but with restrictions. The order with the restrictions then took four weeks to come from the state, Shellenberger said. He went on to say that county fair boards saw four different sector sheets with instructions for county fairs on what they could and could not do before that order came.
“So we waited, and we waited, and we made plans, and they had to be changed. And then when he finally signed an order, all sector sheets were thrown away, and a new one came out,” Shellenberger said. “So, what we’re doing is, we’re still planning things the way we had them planned. We’ve made a plan B if something close to what he said the other day on television comes true. We’re going to step back to a junior fair — that’s what he alluded to that he would allow, which would include the animal shows. We’re going to allow the static displays if that’s included in the order when it comes. If he allows food concessions, we still have concessions that are willing to come. I still have the cleaning people on board.”
The fair also has 50 new hand sanitizer stations ready to be installed.
The fair’s vendor for rides, Jessup Amusements, which is not the county’s usual ride vendor, is also on standby and ready to go if permitted, Shellenberger said. If rides are still able to be permitted, the vendor plans to clean the seats and high-touch points between rides. They will also close a different ride every half hour and do a “semi-deep clean.”
“The governor said he’s probably not going to allow it in his statement, but we’ll have to wait to see what it says,” Shellenberger said.
“Harness racing is going to go on one way or another,” Shellenberger said. “In the short amount of information we got, it would just not allow spectators.
“It’s not an order yet. So right now we’re still planning as we were a week ago,” Shellenberger said.
He said for stadium events, they have seating charts and plan to sit families together, as well as limit the total number of people who are allowed in the stadium. He added that families will have to bring their own lawn chairs for other outdoor events where the fair would have previously provided benches.
“The health department has been wonderful to work with. They were on board with everything we’re doing so far,” Shellenberger said.
The Shelby County Fair will also share signage with the Miami County Fair that will suggest directions for people to walk down aisles in order to limit too many people from walking around each other.
“I’ve been telling the board, and I’ve been telling anybody who asks, the only way any of this works, whether we’re talking about the fair or society, is the people. They have to cooperate with whatever we’re doing or it doesn’t work.”
In regard to face masks, while the state is currently under a face mask mandate, Shellenberger said, “it’s not my mandate to enforce.”
“Obviously I’m not discouraging the use of masks but it’s going to be a case-by-case basis,” Shellenberger said. He added they will have a limited number of extra face masks on hand. “To me, it’s a personal choice.”
Shellenberger said the fair is “seriously looking at” events like the concert, demo derby, and tractor pulls. Even if the events are still allowed in some way, he said they are still considering whether they want to move forward with those events due to the large crowds those would draw.
“I think we have a good plan. The health department thinks we have a good plan,” Shellenberger said.
Shellenberger went on to say there will be no live animals in the general auctions, but they’re planning to go ahead with live animals during the Sale of Champions on Wednesday, Aug. 19. He noted that event may have to be moved to the goat barn instead of the hog barn.
Approximately 150 campers are still planning to camp at the fairgrounds, he said.
“I’m impressed with your COVID operation plan,” commissioner Ted Mercer said.
“This is a lot more detailed than I thought I might see,” commissioner Jack Evans said.
Shellenberger also praised the community support the fair has received from county residents.
“Your county has got a great support for this fair,” Shellenberger said.
The Miami County Fair will be Aug. 14-20.