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New outdoor capacity guidelines encourage fair organizers to plow ahead with event

FILE PHOTO
 - The 2021 fair will include the 4-H and FFA Youth Fair.

Jefferson County Fair Board members and Fair Coordinator Brian Crow are planning to hold a summer fair that's much closer to what they hosted in 2019.

"We're plugging forward with the idea that we're going to hold as traditional of a fair as we can, based on new capacity limits," Crow said.

New information from the governor's office last week was good news for fairs.

"For outdoor entertainment, at high risk we can have 15% capacity, medium is 25%, and low is 50%," Crow said. "With that new information, I feel like we will have something that is really close to the traditional fair."

Jefferson County Fairgrounds capacity is an estimated 18,000 people. Even if the county is in high risk, 15% capacity is 2,700 people. Crow said the fair averages 4,000 to 6,000 people a day, but they're not all there at the same time.

In the midst of the pandemic last summer, the fair board went ahead with the 4-H and FFA Youth Fair, allowing kids to show and sell their animals, but all other traditional fair activities were canceled.

This summer, Jefferson County Fair is scheduled for Wednesday through Saturday, July 21-24 at the fairgrounds in Madras.

Plans are underway for the 4-H and FAA youth livestock show and sale as well as all of the traditional fair activities such as the rodeo, exhibit entries, food and commercial vendors, beer garden, concerts, and a carnival with all safety guidelines in place.

Countryfied is on the books for the Friday night concert in the pavilion, and Crow has a couple other performers in mind for the Saturday night show.

Indoor capacity is more restrictive – 50% when a county is in the low-risk category. Because static exhibits are displayed indoors and many of the exhibitor superintendents are not comfortable gathering, those exhibits may need to be moved to a virtual setting.

"If we get moved back to extreme, then all bets are off. Then we'll have to go with Plan B," Crow said.

Plan B would include the 4-H and FFA Youth Fair as well as a few other limited activities. They would offer an online solution for locals to virtually enter their flowers, quilts and exhibits. They might have time slots with a limited amount of visitors for the carnival.

"We would still have our fair food vendors here, and the community could drive in and go get their fair food from the fair vendors," Crow said.

The fair board expects to reevaluate things on May 5 and again on June 2, giving them about two months to pivot if necessary.

"I really hope we can get out of this high level of restriction and get down to something that's a little more normal. As an events person, this last year has just crushed me – just crushed my soul," Crow said with a chuckle.


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