DeWine Limits Ohio County Fairs To Junior Fair Events Only

A barn for Lorain County Junior Fair goats.
The fair will be limited to junior events. [Annie Wu / ideastream]

Updated: 5:17 p.m., Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Gov. Mike DeWine is ordering all county fairs taking place after July 31 to allow only junior fair activities. The Lorain County Fair Board made a similar decision with a Monday night vote.

For weeks, the Lorain County Fair Board faced criticism and calls to cancel the fair from the mayor of the Village Wellington, Lorain County Commissioners and others.

Monday’s vote was a dramatic shift from the previous week, when Fair Board President Kim Meyers detailed plans for the fair to go on as usual but with social distancing measures in place, including a mask requirement for employees and in certain areas, limited capacity in the grandstand and with employees monitoring crowd levels and congregating.

The state was working to make county fairs possible this summer with such limitations, DeWine said.

“Our goal this summer was, in spite of the COVID-19 to try to hold these fairs. Our goal was to focus on our young people,” DeWine said in his coronavirus Tuesday briefing. “The essence of county fairs is really the young people who are in 4H and FFA, young kids who are competing, not just those who raise lambs or steers or chickens or goats but also those who might take in a project in rockets, a project in welding.”

The state worked with Ohio legislators to provide each fair with $50,000 for safety precautions, DeWine said, but it has become clear that full fairs cannot take place safely during the pandemic. Some outbreaks have been traced back to fairs, he said.

“As we start to head into really the busiest part of the year, the summer with the county fairs, it’s become increasingly clear that we cannot have a regular, safe fair in the Ohio summer, the COVID summer of 2020,” DeWine said. “We simply cannot do that.”

Ohio county fairs cannot will not grandstand events, rides, games or carnivals under the order. A 10 p.m. curfew also will be in place for fairs opening after July 31, DeWine said.

“I’m sorry that this simply did not work,” DeWine said.

The Lorain County Fair Board will be in contact with vendors and exhibitors in coming weeks to discuss refunds, according to a statement on the fair’s Facebook page.

The fair board also faced criticism this season for its refusal to ban the Confederate flag from the fairgrounds, including a boycott by the Community Foundation of Lorain County.

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