Ohio State Fair to remain closed to public this summer as pandemic restrictions loosen

By Staff Report

For the second year in a row, the Ohio State Fair, the largest in the state, will remain closed to the general public.

Limited exhibits will occur, but citing pandemic restrictions and guest safety, the Ohio Expositions Commission announced the news Thursday.

Last year, as previously reported by Y-City News, the Commission voted to cancel the state fair after several weeks of evaluations, which included consideration of an increased number of cases of the virus throughout the state.

An alternative digital celebration of agriculture and Ohio was offered in its place.

Two months later, the Muskingum County Fair Board made the ultimate decision to follow suit and cancel its plans for a 2020 August fair.

In that announcement, they cited advice by the Zanesville-Muskingum County Health Department who was opposed to a full regularly planned fair.

The agency did however suggested a modified version that would appeal to then current health and safety guidelines.

The fair board said the suggested “unattainable restrictions” are what led to the canceling of last year’s fair.

Nearly every other county in Ohio also canceled their fairs at the request of Ohio Governor Mike DeWine.

As previously covered by Y-City News, area community leaders stepped up to ensure students were compensated for their animals.

Often the proceeds from the auctions during fair week are used by the students to fund their next year’s animal or towards their future cost of attending college.

Eric Mitchell, Vice President of Creno’s Pizza, said it seemed when the news broke last July that it was the only things people were talking about when they came into his pizza shop.

“Everybody was talking about it,” said Mitchell. “I started to learn how important the fair is to the community and how important it is to the youth, the kids and all their families.”

As Mitchell further explained, students in the 4-H program are those individuals who become part of tomorrow’s workforce, noting how they are the kids that dedicate a portion of their free time to the labor-intensive process of caring for an animal.

While the exact amount of fundraising dollars received was not posted on the Muskingum Youth Livestocks Premium’s website, individual listings show that the donations total a large sum of money.

On Thursday the Ohio Expositions Commission announced their decision to not open the 2021 Ohio State Fair to the public.

According to that release, members of the Commission expressed concern for the public health, as well as the financial impact of hosting a fair that would adhere to current safety protocols, including the lasting impacts of the long-term viability of the Ohio State Fair.

While acknowledging significant vaccination rates across the state, General Manager Virgil Strickler said indoor seating capacities would likely lead to attendance that would be considerably lower than in previous years.

“The financial ramifications of hosting a typical Ohio State Fair with the same overhead costs, but far less revenue, could be devastating to our organization,” Strickler continued.

Financial documents from the organization show that traditionally the Ohio State Fair is designed to break even, with a nominal profit, if any.

This year’s fair will be limited to exhibitors and family members for youth and senior livestock competitions, along with educational projects judging for non-livestock competitions, such as 4-H.

The 2022 Ohio State Fair is planned for July 27 through August 7 with a full return of rides, concerts, entertainers, live music, food vendors and shopping.

Meanwhile, a full 2021 Muskingum County Fair is scheduled for August 15 through August 21 with country music singer Michael Hardy and special guest Travis Denning as the live music entertainment.