Local fairs prepare for shows to go on

Sarah Eames | The Daily StarThe east entrance to the Otsego County Fairgrounds in Morris is shown empty Tuesday, April 27.

While many are celebrating the return of the New York State Fair this summer after its cancellation last year amid the coronavirus pandemic, the organizers of local and regional fairs are still awaiting guidance from the state Department of Health.

“The New York State Fair is one of our biggest and most exciting tourist attractions that celebrates the spirit of New York and generates economic growth for the region and the entire state,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in an April 26 appearance at the state fairgrounds in Syracuse. “I've said time and again that no one wants to open the Fair this year more than I do, and we are finally making it happen in a safe, responsible way with the 2021 Reimagined New York State Fair.”

“This celebration is a unique reward for New Yorkers who have made so many sacrifices during this pandemic and will allow visitors from across the state and the country to enjoy some of the best attractions the Fair has to offer with all necessary safety guidelines in place,” he continued. “This is an important step towards the full return of New York's largest events as we continue to reopen and reimagine our state's economy.”

“It’s nice that (Cuomo) gets to have his fair, but we’re still waiting to hear about ours,” said Ed Rossley, president of the Delaware County Agricultural Association.

Rossley, who also serves as first vice president of the New York State Association of Agricultural Fairs, noted that the organizers of other fairs across the state are “stuck in the same boat.”

“We’re planning on going ahead, tentatively, unless we hear otherwise,” Rossley said.

The 134th Delaware County Fair is scheduled for Aug. 16 through 21 at the fairgrounds in Walton.

Otsego County Fair manager Lisa Jones said similar uncertainty was expressed by many local organizers at a recent regional meeting of fair directors as they await guidance from the state Health Department and the Centers for Disease Control.

“We’re going to have a fair. We’re just not sure what it’s going to look like yet,” Jones said. “Everyone has an A plan and a B plan, but we have no plan.”

With the 75th Otsego County Fair scheduled toward the end of the season, from Aug. 3 to 8 at the fairgrounds in Morris, its organizers are hoping for more flexible guidelines if COVID rates continue to improve.

“We’re going to do whatever we have to do, as long as the guidelines are followed,” Jones said. “I’ve been telling people you won’t see a fair like you normally have.”

Jones said Otsego Fair organizers will likely model the state fair’s limits on indoor events and adopt a similar attendance policy, separating outdoor areas into sections, each with its own ticket admission system.

Attendance at the state fair will be limited to 50% capacity with tickets sold for each of the outdoor areas, allowing attendees to plan their day while ensuring social distance guidelines are maintained, according to a media release from the governor’s office.

The fairgrounds’ buildings will not be open to the public, except for bathrooms. Attendees will be required to observe social distancing and wear masks, except when eating or drinking, when they will be asked to sit, according to the release. Midway rides, games and attractions, as well as all surfaces of frequent customer contact, will be rigorously and frequently cleaned and sanitized.

“As public health conditions and the guidance changes, the fair will adapt and adhere to all applicable health protocols, such as capacity restrictions, social distancing, face coverings, and health screening where necessary,” the release said.

Sarah Eames, staff writer, can be reached at seames@thedailystar.com or 607-441-7213. Follow her @DS_SarahE on Twitter.

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