A summertime tradition may be returning this year.
After a one year pandemic-related hiatus, the Madison County Fair is scheduled for July 14-17, 2021 but may look somewhat different than past years. Restrictions on public gatherings and related government regulations because of the COVID-19 pandemic are likely to change procedures and events at the 2021 fair. The fair board is making plans to go forward after cancellation of last year’s fair.
While Madison County has advanced to a level of reopening where outdoor entertainment events of 1,000 people are permitted, it is still a far cry from the 5,000+ crowds that attended past fairs. The challenge for organizers is to be able to provide enough activities/ entertainment to entertain fairgoers without the revenue from large crowds. The fair board has been looking for musical acts and activities. Two of the signature features of the fairthe carnival and the demolition derby are crucial to the financial success of the annual event.
Treasurer Scott Daniel explained that the carnival and demolition derby are two of the main draws for the Madison County Fair and have historically accounted for 3,000-4,000 paid admissions per night. The fair will likely be restricted to 1,000 admissions at one time and also burdened with the extra costs of cleaning and safety precautions.
The scope and size of the 2021 fair has yet to be determined. Plans for the livestock show and sale are underway and the restrictions on public gatherings will determine how plans move forward.
“I don’t see how we can make this work without the carnival and the derby,” said Daniel. “ We have 5,000 paid admissions on derby night and probably another 1,000 unpaid. We will be dealing with limited admission and have to have the events that draw people that don’t cost a fortune.”
Fair board member Essie Berry explained that there will be many changes to protect the health and safety of all exhibitors and visitors. The health department requires a minimum of one porta-john per 100 people on the grounds and hourly cleaning. The board is planning for a minimum of 15 porta-johns and is working to find a cleaning service to perform the required cleaning.
“Every year we rely on volunteers to help put on the fair,” said Berry. “We will need additional people to keep up with cleaning requirements. We need to plan to hire a service for the 40 plus hours that will be needed for cleaning the [porta-johns]. We just can’t expect that any volunteers will do that. We will do our best to have it all if regulations allow for it.”
Board member Gail Temple expressed concern about whether enough people would feel comfortable attending a large event during a global pandemic.
“Are all these precautions enough?” asked Temple. “Will enough people feel comfortable coming to make this worthwhile?”
While some vendors and entertainment, including the demolition derby and a zoo have been booked, as of yet, no carnival has committed for 2021. The fireman’s parade, the traditional kickoff for the summer event is also uncertain for 2021 as there are questions about public safety.
Another challenge for the board is the preparation of the fairgrounds. While the 4-H clubs take responsibility for preparing the barn for the fair, other parts of the fairground, including the bleachers will likely need to be checked and repaired as the grounds have been largely unused for the last year.
The fair board will hold its next meeting on May 10 and expect to make final decisions and plans for the 2021 fair.
“Right now we are planning for the worst and hoping for the best,” said Berry.