Butler County Fair: Officials hope demolition derby can improve lagging attendance

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

The Butler County Fair is seeing exceedingly low attendance numbers so far, but officials hope to rebound with a popular event during its final days after adjusting to coronavirus precautions for his year’s event.

Attendance totals for the first four days of the fair are “terrible,” according to Doug Turner, president of the Butler County Fair board.

“It’s bad. It’s real bad,” Turner told the Journal-News. “We don’t even have 10 percent.”

The general public is allowed into the Hamilton fairgrounds for food and game vendors, but amusement rides are not a part of this year’s fair. Instead of being open the entire day, admission starts at 5 p.m. The only all day aspect is the junior fair, which is limited 4-H participants and their families are permitted inside the fairground’s barns for junior fair activities and competitions.

Turner said the vendors who did turn out to provide fair food and games tell him “they’re not doing well at all.”

Monday’s tractor pull was rained out and postponed until Tuesday. Attendance was “just about non-existent,” with approximately 50 people turning out for the event, as opposed to the usual 1,000 to 1,500 people, he said.

Sales of tickets for Friday’s demolition derby are lagging, Turner said. The event was planned to include as many as 1,500 people, but as of Wednesday afternoon, 600 tickets had been sold.

Grandstand tickets are on sale at www.butlercountyohfair.org/demolition-derby for $10 each. Social distancing will be maintained at the derby by using only half the seats in the grandstand. Fans this year also will have the option of standing viewing from around the enclosed pen where cars crash into one another until only one is left as the winner. Those “pit passes” go on sale at 3 p.m. Friday.

Previous state orders prompted an initial cancellation of the fair, which has operated since 1851. Subsequent loosening of restrictions allowed the board to plan for several aspects of the fair, including livestock showings by youth participants, but no auction sales of their animals or birds.

But even in that aspect, attendance is “drastically” down compared to previous years, Turner said.

“Some of them are half, some of them are a little more than half,” he said.

Wearing masks and following social distancing guidelines, fortunately, has not been an issue.

“People are doing a fantastic job following instructions,” Turner said.

Those missing the agricultural aspect of this year’s fair can check out competitions are they stream live on Facebook at www.facebook.com/butlercofair.

This year’s fair wraps up just as Ohio is looking to curb the size and scope of county fairs. Gov. Mike DeWine announced Tuesday an order limiting all fairs starting on or after July 31 to junior fairs.

There will be no grandstand events, rides or games. The fairs will be limited to 4-H and FFA competitions.

The governor cited outbreaks connected to other fairs as the reason behind the order, saying that the state is working on keeping crowds down while allowing 4-H and FFA (Future Farmers of America) members to still show their projects.

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