Butler County Fair: If it can’t happen, ‘we’re going to be, financially, a little strapped’

Plans for the Butler County Fair are still underway, even with an uncertain future on the horizon during the coronavirus pandemic.

“Obviously, under the current order of no large gatherings we would be unable to hold our fair,” the Butler County Fair Board said in a release. “But since we are unsure of the details of the re-opening timeline, as it is rapidly changing, we don’t feel comfortable making any major decisions regarding the fair.”

As a result, no changes have been made to dates and deadlines, other than the date to register at 4-H online being today.

Planning for July 26 to Aug. 1 event are the Butler County Agricultural Society Board of Directors, its support staff and the Butler County office of the Ohio State University Extension.

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The biggest reason to continue planning for the fair, which has been held since 1851, rather than postpone or cancel it, is because Butler County children have purchased market animals to show during the competition portion of the event, according to Doug Turner, the fair board’s president.

In addition, “if we don’t have a fair, it’s kind of hard for us to pay our bills,” Turner said. “I would guess that would be the case for every fair in the state of Ohio. We have fairs so we can pay the electric bill and the water bill and whatnot.”

Making the matter even more complicated, the mortgage for a newly constructed event center must be paid, a task that has been made more daunting in recent weeks by the cancelation of events due to the coronavirus pandemic, he said.

“If we cancel the fair, we’re going to be, financially, a little strapped,” Turner said.

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Even if Ohio allows fairs to proceed as planned, the fair board will need to meet to decide the event’s fate, he said.

“You have to step back and ask ‘Will the people come?’” Turner said. “It’s definitely a decision that the board will not take lightly.”

Despite the fair being a Butler County tradition since 1851, the decision cannot be made based on that or even financial concerns.

“You’ve got to make the decision so it’s safe and being conscientious of the public, too,” he said.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said Tuesday that the state’s 94 county and independent fairs ll attract big crowds each year.

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“This year, however, we don’t yet know what Ohio’s fairs will look like, but we do know the costs incurred by the fair boards continue,” DeWine said on Twitter. “Today, I’m announcing that this year, the Ohio Department of Agriculture will waive the requirement that Agricultural Societies must put up matching funds in order to receive $50,000 facilities grants. This way, fairs that qualify will still have this money to put toward improvements, even if the local match isn’t available.”

Fair managers have until May 30 to apply via the Ohio Department of Agriculture's website at agri.ohio.gov.

Turner said the Butler County Fairgrounds already applied for this Capital Improvement Grant and qualified to receive it.

“It will not affect day to day operations,” he said. “It was to be used for improvements which we used to finish our event center and office space.

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