After the COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation or modification of their 2020 events, local fair organizers are anticipating a more typical fair season this summer while still prioritizing safety.
General Manager Kevin Kotz, of Dubuque County Fairgrounds, said the fair board is planning for the 2021 fair, scheduled for July 27 to Aug. 1, to be “as normal as it can be.” Most food vendors will attend, 4-H shows will be held as usual, and the carnival will return with heightened cleaning protocols.
Kotz said fair organizers will look to county and state regulations at the time of the event to determine protocols regarding such items as the wearing of masks.
Also returning will be the big-name music performances, including country musician Chris Lane on Thursday of fair week and rock bands Queensrÿche and Skid Row on Friday. All three were scheduled for the 2020 fair but were canceled due to the pandemic.
Events on the racetrack will resume their usual schedule, with sprint car racing on Wednesday, the truck and tractor pull on Saturday and the demolition derby and stock car racing on Sunday.
Kotz said flexibility is key to hosting a successful 2021 fair.
“We’re still a good three months out from our event,” he said. “A lot of things will hopefully change for the better, and if they change the other way, we’ll adapt, just like we did last year.”
Many other local fair organizers voiced similar sentiments.
John Harms, general manager of Great Jones County Fair in Monticello, Iowa, said it is committed to hosting a 2021 event, but specifics are still uncertain.
“We are going to produce our event to the extent we are able at the time we have it. Much will change between now and then, so we can’t offer details this far out,” he wrote in an email to the Telegraph Herald. “We just don’t know at this point what will be required of us as a venue.”
Tickets for the fair’s first concert, country duo Dan + Shay, with opening act Gavin DeGraw, will go on sale on Friday, April 16. The concert is slated for July 22.
Delaware County Fairgrounds Manager Jeannie Domeyer said sanitization of high-touch areas will be a priority at the Manchester, Iowa, event, which runs from July 12 to July 18.
Domeyer also said the fair will open additional seating areas for grandstand events and grounds acts to allow guests to spread out if they wish. Events in the show ring will be livestreamed for viewing from other fairgrounds buildings for those who prefer not to enter the ring.
“We will aim to keep most of our overhead doors and curtains on our buildings open to keep outside air circulating, too,” she wrote in an email to the Telegraph Herald. “Masks are always welcome, though will not be required unless we are under a mask mandate at that time.”
Fair officials announced Monday that ZZ Top will be the musical headliner on Friday, July 16. The band is known for hits such as “Gimme All Your Lovin,” “Sharp Dressed Man” and “Legs.”
The Jackson County Fair is scheduled for July 27 to Aug. 1 in Maquoketa, Iowa. Manager Lanny Simpson said officials are planning for a normal event with increased sanitization efforts and accepting exhibitors as normal.
Simpson said masks currently are required to enter fairgrounds facilities due to the county mandate in place until June 1. The fair will adjust requirements if county regulations change before the fair.
“It’s going to be determined day-to-day, as this whole process has been determined, to keep the safety of our public and our guests up front in our minds,” she said.
At the Grant County Fair in Lancaster, Wis., slated for Aug. 18 to 22, masks will not be required, according to Fairgrounds and Operations Director Amy Olson.
“There’s no government putting any mandates in right now, (so) we’re going to try to respect those people that want to wear a mask and those that don’t,” she said. “We want everyone to be comfortable when they come.”
Olson said the fair will install plexiglass barriers at ticket and concessions windows, implement contactless payment options and provide hand sanitizer throughout the grounds. Carnival rides will be sanitized regularly.
The Iowa County Fair in Mineral Point, Wis., which will be held Sept. 2 to 6, plans to host a full fair featuring “entertainment, a midway, youth and open show exhibits, livestock shows, food stands, and vendors,” according to an email from fair organizers.
“We feel that the fair is a very important part of our communities and that we can provide the exciting atmosphere the fair offers in a safe and responsible manner,” the email read.
As fair season draws closer, all local organizers will continue to adapt their plans in accordance with changing health regulations.
“It’s hard to predict what things are going to be like. I hope it continues to get better, but we’ll be doing our part to make sure things are as safe as possible,” Olson said. “I think everybody’s ready to get back into the fair season.”