The decision to cancel the 2020 Greene County Fair was a “very difficult” choice to make for the event’s board of directors, but it was made with the community’s safety as the foremost concern, according to its president.
“It was a tough decision,” Rick Clark, president of the Greene County Fair board of directors, said Wednesday. “We met last night for our regularly scheduled meeting. And it was time that we had to make a call.”
While it was a challenging decision, Clark said the board felt it was the correct one for the community due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We felt it was in the best interest of protecting the community to cancel the fair,” he said.
If social distancing and other restrictions are eased later in the year, the board hopes to be able to schedule some individual events related to the fair.
“We will see what the future holds for the fall,” Clark said. “We may be able to do some one-off events, such as a ‘Demolition Derby’ weekend if some of the social distancing restrictions are lifted. It depends on what happens in the future with the pandemic. But, hopefully, we can have a few events for the community later in the year.”
Planning had been going on for months for the annual fair, scheduled for July 27 through Aug. 2 this year, Clark said.
In early April, much of the public side of the fair is organized as vendors are contacted to make final preparations for the event, he explained.
With the coronavirus pandemic, this spring has been different as those final preparations and calls were delayed to see what would happen with the restrictions that are in place.
However, at the May meeting, the board felt it was time to make a decision about whether to go on with the fair or cancel it, Clark said.
The board has been in contact with several officials throughout the pandemic, particularly the Tennessee Commissioner of Agriculture, he said. State agriculture officials indicated that while some restrictions have been relaxed with the economy reopening, they felt that social distancing guidelines would be in place for the foreseeable future.
Social distancing restrictions were a major factor in the board’s decision, Clark said.
“A fair does not lend itself to social distancing at all,” he said. “Imagine trying to social distance about 3,500 people in the demolition derby area or on the midway where people are usually shoulder to shoulder on busy nights when events like the derby are scheduled. At the food booths, it would be difficult as people are used to sitting with their neighbors and their friends. It would even be difficult in the commercial building with the flow of people.”
Greene County is not alone in struggling with what to do about its fair. Information available from the Tennessee Association of Fairs earlier this week indicated seven fairs across the state have been canceled and 13 have not made a final decision, Clark said.
Ten fairs across the state are continuing as scheduled. However, he said, many of those are in West Tennessee and will be held later in the year than many of those that have been canceled.
With the cancellation of the fair, the board’s focus will now be on making preparations for the 2021 event.
A date has not yet been finalized for next year, Clark said, but the board is looking at the fair beginning in late July.
The timing of the fair was moved up a few weeks in 2019 to late July, and the board felt that it was a positive move for the event.
“We had a problem for several years with the fair coinciding with the start of school,” he said. “We had an opportunity to move the fair up earlier last year, and it was a huge success. We had better attendance and we did have good weather.”