COVID-19 forced the Allen County Fair Board to decide in late July that the 2020 Allen County Fair would have a shorter schedule this year starting on Aug. 21st. However, for the first time ever, they were to be closed to the general public. This decision came as a result of Gov. Mike DeWine’s coronavirus restrictions for Ohio county fairs due to fears about overcrowding. In 2019, there were an estimated 22,000 people on the grounds every day. Allen county hosts one of the largest fairs in Ohio, and closing it down affects not only the fairground’s maintenance budget and individual vendors, it affects the children of 4H.
4H has a long history in this part of Ohio. When several schools were founded, many students came from farms, and 4H was used to bring these children together and offer them opportunities to grow. Now Allen County has dozens of registered 4H clubs, and they cater to more than the farm-affiliated children. Members can try their hand at photography, dress-making, dog training, or even engineering. This is the reason why the Allen County Fair couldn’t afford to close entirely.
For adult, non-4H family patrons, the fair board announced the Allen County Fair Food Bash on Friday, Aug. 28th and Saturday, Aug. 29th from 11am-7pm. Food vendors were set up near the livestock barns for walk-up service. In addition to the access to fair favorites, the price of admission was waived for patrons. However, despite the board’s best efforts, the public will still be affected by this decision in the coming months in ways that may be unexpected.
For example, Raabe College of Pharmacy often sends outreach teams to offer free screenings for diseases like hypertension, diabetes and osteoporosis. It is not uncommon for screening events to be the first and perhaps only time that the general public is tested for these. Since fairgrounds are being closed to the public, Dr. Michelle Musser, the outreach coordinator expressed that Healthwise Pharmacy would be unable to attend the Hardin County Fair. To make up for that lost time, the Healthwise crew is planning to perform “a series of flu vaccine clinics in the coming months.”
Another example is the turnaround time from the last day of fair (Aug. 27th) to the first day of school. Local school boards have staggered the first days of school across the area, with Ada Village opening the earliest on Aug. 24th, Allen East opening on the 31st, and Bath Local Schools starting classes on Sept. 8th. With the Hardin County Fair starting on Sept. 8th, Ada Village has to contend with those that already showed and those that may do soon. While the health department has not given guidance, the school already has a plan. “We offered an online option to our families this summer as an alternative to in-person instruction,” Dan Lee, the Ada High School principal said. “If a student is quarantined during the year for a period of time, our teachers work with that student to keep them caught up on their assignments.”
For those with family planning to show in the Hardin County fair, the Hardin County Fair Board has officially created a plan in collaboration with the Kenton-Hardin Health Department. Corey Ledley, president of the Fair Board said, “while we know this isn’t what anyone wanted for the fair this year… this plan will allow us to provide an opportunity for the junior fair exhibition this year and keep everyone safe in the process.”