OTTAWA — The 2020 Putnam County Fair will go on later this month but will be vastly different from other fairs in the 165 years since the fair first began, and the focus will be on youth activities.
The board conducted a two-hour meeting Friday night at the junior fair building which involved a great deal of discussion and some tempers displayed. But the message was a united one — they will need a lot of help and donations pulling the event off. The fair, which began in 1855, is scheduled for June 22-27. Tickets will not be sold, and donation buckets will be at all the gates to avoid having to handle money and tickets given the current COVID-19 crises.
Nathan Meyer, president of the Putnam County Agricultural Society, said they have been told that the state will allow county fairs to be held after July 1 which will retroactively apply to Putnam County’s fair, but they do not have the paperwork in hand. The state department of health is telling the local department that the order is coming.
“We are waiting on the state again,” Meyer said. “But we hear it’s coming.”
Another meeting will be held Tuesday to review the guidelines to be presented to the local health board on how the fair will be conducted.
According to a June 5 media release from Putnam County Health Commissioner Kim Rieman, the health department has been in consultation with the fair board to determine what events can be held as safely as possible.
“Like many businesses and services that are reopening in the state, county fairs are subject to certain operating requirements if they are planning to go on,” the release states.
“The Putnam County Fair Board is still determining exactly what events will be held, and what will not. It is clear, however, that Junior Fair and 4-H activities will be the main focus of this year’s events.”
The release also encourages fairgoers to wash their hands frequently. The Fair Board will have hand sanitizers available throughout the fairgrounds where events are happening.
Ohio Gov. Michael DeWine’s office has released guidelines on how county fair boards/agricultural societies and local health departments can safely allow youth to participate in livestock shows and other activities.
The meeting was called to order and the rather large crowd was asked to separate to maintain proper social distancing. Meyer said they need serious help to make fair happen. He said there were too many people to talk so he asked for a show of hands if they wanted the fair to happen this year and if they wanted the fair to happen in the future. More people raised their hands to the question of having fairs in the future rather than this year.
A bucket was passed around asking for donations to help fund the fair. Meyer also noted they are setting up an account at all the Fort Jennings State Bank branches where people can donate for the fair.
Jason Hedrick, extension educator, 4-H youth development, discussed a potential schedule for the junior fair board members with details and logistics still need worked out. Social distancing and groups of 10 or less would be maintained. The animal barns will also have to maintain these rules. 4-Her’s will not be able to feed and water their animals all at the same time.
One member noted the county does have more than 90 cases involving the COVID-19 virus, but 85 percent of them are from a nursing home. Meyer noted there is a bill in the Ohio House that is under consideration that will exempt county fairs from being sued in the event of a fairgoer getting the COVID-19 virus.
Another participant argued for having the fair, noting many people around the state who got their start at the county fair in their youth including attorneys, judges and State Rep. Bob Cupp, R-Lima. He said the people of Putnam County must help these people have a fair this year.
Among the motions approved, one was if the board does not receive the official notification that they can proceed with the fair by midnight June 12, the fair will be canceled. That motion was approved, but not unanimously.
Another motion was approved to allow donation barrels to be posted by the gates so no tickets would have to be dealt with. Volunteers will be sought to help monitor the barrels.
The board also approved moving the tractor pull to 7 p.m. Sept. 18. The demolition derby will also be moved to the fall.
Another motion approved doing away with advertising except on Facebook to save costs.
Camping rules will also have to follow all COVID-19 precautions.
“It won’t be a normal fair week,” Meyer said.