Board president: Butler County Fair adjusting to guidelines that ‘change every day’

Scenes from the Butler County Fair Wednesday, July 24 in Hamilton. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF
Scenes from the Butler County Fair Wednesday, July 24 in Hamilton. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

The Butler County Fair Board is providing the first glimpse of what will be included next month as the event takes on a different form at the fairgrounds.

The board, which on May 26 canceled plans for the full-fledged fair in July, provided details Wednesday. The modified plans for the event, namely a junior fair, include livestock shows for area youth involved with after-school program 4-H and education program Future Farmers of America, or FFA.

But those plans could change at any time due to state and local recommendations and restrictions because of the coronavirus.

“That’s the biggest problem and the biggest hurdle that we have — the rules and the guidelines for the fair change every day,” said Doug Turner, president of the Butler County Fair Board. “It’s really hard for us to make a decision when you think you’ve got your program and your plan in place and then the governor changes his mind and everything changes as to what we can and can’t do.”

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A great majority of businesses and attractions in Ohio have reopened in the past several weeks. Those permitted to reopen Wednesday included entertainment venues such as aquariums and zoos, skating rinks, indoor movie theaters and other indoor entertainment centers.

Small businesses, salons, restaurants, gyms and tattoo parlors were among those permitted to reopen last month.

Just like the openings for those entities, the county fair will face its own set of guidelines set by the state and the Butler County Health District.

The Butler County Fair was first held in 1851. This year’s modified event is tenatively scheduled to run from July 26 to July 31, Turner said.

The senior fair board said it will make every effort to provide the best experience for the 4-H and FFA participants while remaining as safe as possible.

The fair will not be open to the general public, and only those involved with the livestock shows will be admitted.

Limited concessions and camping options will be available. Registration for camping and all exhibitors will be due by 4 p.m. June 27 at the fair office. More information on registration will be released in the days ahead.

“When we canceled the fair, we spun right back around and said we were going to have a junior fair and we are in the process of figuring out a plan and program,” Turner said. “(Tuesday’s) meeting was … a work session to work through things and idea and we’re going to have another meeting in two weeks and try to figure out and vote on how exactly it’s going to be.”

The Ohio Department of Health released updated guidelines for county fairs this year amid the coronavirus pandemic. The updated guidelines allow for livestock competitions to be held “in the same manner as they have in the past” with some exceptions that also apply to auctions.

The exceptions include participants, judges and spectators maintaining six feet apart as possible, judges wearing masks and microphones being sanitized after each use.

Additionally, spectators are permitted with family members given priority and families to group together and maintain six feet from other families.

“The changes were developed to encourage junior fairs while making health and safety protocols easy to understand for county fair boards,” Dan Tierney, spokesman for Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, said in an emailed statement.

Previous guidelines did not permit animals to be in the ring for auctions, and they were interpreted as requiring shows to be held only classes of nine or less and no spectators to satisfy a state ban on gatherings of more than 10 people that remains in effect until July 1.

Now spectators are also allowed at grandstand events with the crowd being limited to half the grandstand capacity and not to exceed 2,500.

The new guidelines also call for barns and buildings to “be open as much as possible to allow good ventilation.”

Before and since the original guidelines were announced May 28, many counties in the area or nearby decided to hold only a junior fair of some type.

That group includes Clark, Madison, Montgomery, Butler and Warren counties.

The Ohio State Fair was canceled last month.

DeWine said in May he was hoping counties would be able to hold at least junior fairs.

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