ALCOLA – The Clarion County Fair is scheduled to open in just under two months, but organizers of the annual week-long event are scrambling to figure out what this year’s fair will look like. Or if there will even be a fair at all.
On Tuesday, Fair Board president Josh Minich said that the fair was notified last week that Tropical Amusements, the carnival and midway provider, will not be able to set up at the Clarion County Fair this year due to “restrictive regulations in the state of Pennsylvania.”
“We are deeply disappointed by this decision; however, it is completely out of our control,” Minich said. “At this time, the Clarion County Fair board is attempting to reorganize and offer the community a scaled back version of the week-long event. We are in communication with our food vendors, exhibitors, grounds acts and stage shows to ask if there is still an interest in attending our fair in lieu of the loss of our midway entertainment. The gate admission price would also be appropriately reduced.”
Minich said the local fair is “deeply committed to our community and to our sponsors,” and he said many people have reached out to organizers to urge them to proceed with holding the fair.
“Our fair is not only fun and entertaining, but it also provides an opportunity for local businesses and non-profit organizations to introduce themselves and to generate revenue,” he said. “They recognize that the cancellation of our county fair will certainly have an additional negative financial impact on many businesses already affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Since the pandemic shutdowns began in March, Minich said the fair board has been in constant communication with state legislators, local officials and representatives of the state Department of Agriculture for guidance.
“And there has been extensive debate within the board on how to proceed,” Minich said. “Operating the 2020 fair at a reduced status is a difficult and risky decision to make.”
He explained that uncertainties coming from Gov. Tom Wolf’s office have made matters worse. He said that as Wolf has moved Clarion County from Red, to Yellow to Green, in the reopening phases, there has been little guidance and direction for the fair on what those restrictions mean. And, Minich said, it’s uncertain what the restrictions will be two months from now when the fair is set to operate at Redbank Valley Municipal Park.
“Our apprehension to go forward with the fair is not based on the lack of desire, nor the amount of work involved on behalf of our volunteers,” Minich said. “The potential for the fair not being able to cover basic expenses is a very real risk if there is a lack of attendance due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The board has made a commitment to obtain funding via a short-term loan to continue with operations if necessary, if a decision is made to proceed. Our board, volunteers and committee members are prepared to enhance our fundraising efforts as soon as it is feasible and work even harder to offer our community some version of the 2020 Clarion County Fair.”
Minich said that under recent guidance offered by the governor, the regulations would be “highly restrictive and impossible to enforce.” Those rules, Minich said, would include requiring everyone on the grounds to wear a mask; registering everyone’s name, address and phone number as they enter the grounds; taking the temperatures of everyone entering the grounds; sanitizing everything after each event and at the end of each night; limiting events to no more than 30 people at a time; allowing only 100 people on the fairgrounds at any given time, including workers; and limited seating on rides.
Minich said that the fair would have to follow the state regulations or risk losing state funding, or having the fair’s liability insurance voided if the fair is not 100 percent in compliance.
“Please understand that as it stands at this moment, oversight and enforcement of these draconian guidelines would be impossible and would certainly create a heightened risk of liability for the Clarion County Fair,” Minich said.
Minich apologized to the fair’s 4-H families and exhibitors for all the uncertainty.
“We understand the year-long dedication that each of you have regarding your animals and other projects to prepare for the fair,” Minich said, noting that neither Penn State University nor the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture have committed to allow 4-H members to participate. “As of this time we have received notice that all face-to-face 4-H events are prohibited until October. We remain hopeful that this will change if and when Gov. Wolf makes a decision to further relax the state guidelines. It is our intention to offer some type of livestock auction opportunity that will fall within the guidelines at the time.”
Minich also asked truck and tractor pull participants, and demolition derby drivers to be patient.
“If at all possible, the show will go on,” he said.
Minich also thanked all the fair’s sponsors and volunteers who continue to show their support.
“Without you and your generosity, the fair would not be possible,” he said. “We recognize that Clarion County is a great community and a wonderful place to work, live and raise a family. We ask that you continue to support all local Clarion County businesses and sponsors. We must stick together through this unprecedented time.”
Minich said the fair board will continue to provide updates to the community on the status of the 2020 Clarion County Fair. He said that the board will ned to make a final determination very soon.
“If a decision is made to cancel our event, we will be reaching out to each of our sponsors regarding monetary donations,” Minich said. “If the Clarion County Fair board decides to proceed with a scaled back version of the 2020 fair, please be assured that we will make every effort to adhere to the state’s operating standards in place at the time.”