The 171st annual Stark County Fair is scheduled for Sept. 1-7.
The Ohio State Fair has been canceled this summer, but plans are still up in the air for several county fairs in the Northeast Ohio.
On Thursday, the Ohio Expositions Commission announced that it was canceling the state fair, originally scheduled for July 29 to Aug. 9, in response to the COVID-10 pandemic.
Cathy Cunningham, Summit County’s fair board director and fair manager, said they won’t know how things will change for the local event until Gov. Mike DeWine gives them more guidance.
“We’re waiting like retail waited and restaurants waited to see what kind of order the governor puts out,” she said.
One idea that has been floated around is only having a Junior Fair this year. Cunningham said if that does happen, it will be more of an exhibit than a fair, but it would let kids come and still do their auctions and animal shows.
Cunningham said they calculated the minimum cost to run a scaled-down event would be $27,000, including utilities, supplies and trash collection. That cost includes fair board directors volunteering to clean bathrooms, she said.
If the Junior Fair is what happens, they’ll look to raise money for it, because tickets likely won’t be sold, she said.
Cunningham said fair planning starts about a month after the fair ends, so everything for this year’s fair, scheduled to take place between July 28 and Aug. 2, is ready, minus any changes they’ll be ordered to make.
“We just need to know what we need to do and what we need to change to have that fair,” she said.
The fairgrounds have already gotten the okay to go ahead with some events, like outdoor marketplaces and an open horse show, but events like the Akron Roller Derby are still in limbo.
Cunningham said the best-case scenario is that the governor allows some sort of fair to take place.
“They always had a fair every year, so we’re hoping not to break that long standing tradition,” she said.
Stark County Fair
The 171st annual Stark County Fair is scheduled for Sept. 1-7. The Fair Board has been discussing options during its monthly meetings but have not made a decision. They are to meet again in mid-June.
"It is a hot issue," said Dakota Geis, board secretary.
She said they remain hopeful, but added safety is the top priority.
The board remains committed to hosting some type of junior fair (perhaps virtually or another form) as a way for kids to exhibit and auction their projects and animals.
Portage County Randolph Fair
As of Friday, the Portage County Ranolph Fair also had not yet been canceled, according to an undated post on its website by President Tracey Koszalka.
The Portage County Fair was scheduled for later in the summer, Aug. 25-30. Koszalka could not be reached Friday for comment.
“The current circumstances involving the COVID-19 pandemic are presenting many challenges and uncertainty for the 2020 Fair season. We are communicating with state leaders, health directors, other county fair officials, and the Ohio Fair Managers Association regarding fair information. At this time the Senior Fair Board is researching many different options for our fair while waiting for direction from Governor DeWine. Information will be shared when possible,” Koszalka wrote.
Wayne County Fair
Plans also are still a go for the Wayne County Fair Sept. 12-17, with some restrictions, according to fair manager Matt Martin.
Like others, the Wayne Couty Fair Board is awaiting direction from the state.
"There is not a one-size-fits-all for every fair and there are many things to consider when making such decisions," Martin said, noting officials must weigh expenses versus revenue, the health of volunteers he called "the backbone of the fair," and the livelihood of the concessionaires, vendors, and ride operators.
Holmes County Fair
The Holmes County Fair Board vows to have a fair Aug. 10-15, but whether it will be a full-blown affair with rides, vendors and exhibits remains to be seen.
Other alternatives include an agricultural-only fair for the youth, or even a virtual fair.
The board has decided to hold off making a decision until its June meeting, which still provides enough time to arrange for vendors, entertainment and other plans.
Board President Kerry Taylor said contingency plans for various scenarios are being prepared, adding that this year’s fair will be different from previous fairs.
Reporters Sean McDonnell of the Akron Beacon Journal, Krista S. Kano of the Record-Courier, Jordan Laird of the Ashland Times-Gazette, Kevin Lynch of The Daily Record, Emily Morgan of The Daily Record and Tim Botos of The Canton Repository contributed to this report.