West Lampeter Fair 2019

Fairs must open, with health precautions, to avoid financial devastation to vendors, Ohio groups have told state lawmakers.

“As summer approaches and people adjust to the new normal, we have to try. ...” said Bill Prowant, who runs a fair vending company and spoke for the Greater Ohio Showmen’s Association. “We need to be the light at the end of the tunnel.”

Prowant spoke at a May 20 hearing of the House Agriculture and Rural Development Committee.

J.R. Woods, owner of Durant Enterprises, pushed for Ohio to proceed with its full fair season. Limiting the season would not allow amusement companies like his to recoup their expenses, he said.

Durant earns $1.5 million, or roughly three-quarters of its revenue, from 11 Ohio county fairs. The company’s costs include vehicle and license inspections, payroll of $15,000 a week, and an insurance premium of almost $150,000.

Woods said amusement operators need to focus on the safety of the rides and would rely on fair volunteers to maintain social distancing among excited children and others in line.

The Ohio Fair Managers Association is promoting a raft of health precautions, such as advance ticket sales, removal of seating areas, and one-way visitor traffic in livestock barns.

Because elderly people are at heightened risk from COVID-19, fairs should scrap their senior citizen days or offer special hours for older people, the group said.

For junior livestock shows, the group said, fairs should try to use open-air rings, cut down on lining up before classes, break up large classes, encourage youths not to participate if they feel ill, and make accommodations for children with weakened immune systems.

Speakers said their operations would have hand sanitizing stations, increased cleaning of high-touch surfaces, and an emphasis on wearing masks and gloves.

Also at the hearing, state Reps. Don Jones and Shane Wilkin presented a bill to modernize the rules governing county fairs.

The bill would also provide for fairs to get their normal county and state funding if they cancel because of the pandemic.

Ohio’s Marion County Fair has already canceled, as have a number of fairs in other states.

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