EASTON — The Washington County Fair is planning to open this year, after having to cancel during the pandemic last summer.
“Holy Smokes, we are having a Fair!” the fair posted Thursday morning on Facebook.
Presale tickets are available now for the fair, which will run Aug. 23 through Aug. 29.
Fair entries will be accepted starting in June. Fair officials advised those who have an entry planned to watch the fair’s Facebook page and website, as well as subscribing to the fair’s newsletter, to learn more as details are finalized.
Amusement parks and outdoor social gatherings are now allowed in New York state, but fair officials said they are still waiting specific guidance regarding county fairs.
They noted that time is running short: many fairs open in less than 70 days and some have already canceled, including the Chautauqua County Fair.
“A lot of fairs have canceled. It’s really quite sad,” said Washington County Fair co-manager Rebecca Breese.
On April 26, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that the state fair in Syracuse would go on, with a 50% capacity limit.
However, capacity limits for most industries have now been dropped in favor of 6-foot social distancing. It’s not yet clear what the rules for county fairs will be, but on April 26 Cuomo said the rules at the state fair would be as follows:
- Daily admission will be limited to 50% of capacity, with tickets sold separately for each outdoor area to control capacity throughout the fair. The fair will be divided into areas, such as midway rides, food and drink, concerts, and farm displays.
- All buildings will be closed except for bathrooms.
- Anyone eating or drinking must be seated.
- Attendance at concerts and live performances will be limited to ensure social distancing.
- Masks and social distancing will be required throughout the fair.
Breese said county fairs need to know what rules they will have to follow.
“That announcement about the state fair, it was very state fair specific. Nothing was said about county fairs,” she said. “It’s been very frustrating. There’s additional costs fairs have to make now (to reopen this summer) and they don’t know if some surprise is going to happen. We’ve been promised for quite a bit now that we’re going to get guidance and we haven’t.”
The Washington County Fair Board began planning the 2021 fair without that guidance.
“It takes a year to plan a fair. We’ve been planning it for awhile,” she said. “After the cancellation last year, we’ve been trying to reorganize, playing the game of what-if.”
They added many other events at the fairgrounds, a goal they’d had for years.
“COVID just pushed us into it,” she said.
The fairgrounds now runs Food Truck Fridays, a drive-through holiday lights show in November and December, and will have a drive-through circus on June 12.
Partly, the fair board had a severe financial motivation, like many other businesses that were reorganized to exist during the pandemic.
“Fairs rely on the income of the fair to survive the other 365 days of the year,” Breese said.
But it was also a matter of identity.
“We here at the fairgrounds, what we do is we bring our community together,” she said. “When you can’t bring people together, what’s your purpose? So we looked at different ways to bring that purpose to life. It’s going to last long past COVID. It’s a silver lining in a very dark time.”