Pandemic drives very different-looking Delaware County Fair

PAUL COMSTOCK
editorial@thisweeknews.com
At a special meeting held Aug. 31, the Delaware County Fair board considered a plan to allow 1,500 spectators to view this year's harness racing, including the Little Brown Jug scheduled for Sept. 24.

Because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, the 2020 Delaware County Fair -- which started Sept. 19 and will run through Saturday, Sept. 26 -- is a very different event compared to years past.

Per a state order announced by Gov. Mike DeWine, all county fairs starting after July 31 were limited to junior-fair activities only.

As a result, the general public will not be admitted this year, according to fair board president Tom Wright.

The fair will be limited to those directly involved with the junior fair and the week's schedule of harness racing, including the Little Brown Jug, which will be run without spectators.

Even though the fair is small, it has required a lot of planning, said Sandra Kuhn, fair manager.

"To me, it's been 10 times the work with 20 times as many changes" compared to a normal county fair, she said.

The fair is following pandemic guidelines set by the state and the Ohio Racing Commission, Kuhn said.

Responsible Restart Ohio has amended its original requirements for county fairs, she said.

"It still required a lot of planning, and part of it is everything has been a moving target. Just when you think you've got one thing covered, then you don't have it covered and it's changed," Kuhn said.

Fair officials also are taking "a lot of safety measures just to ensure all of the participants are safe when they're here," she said.

The fair board has enough hand sanitizer to fill about 30 1-gallon containers placed throughout the fairgrounds, she said, plus there are 5,000 face masks available if someone needs one.

"Plus (there are) lots of wipes for high-touch surfaces and five bags of rags for our cleaning companies," she said.

The junior fair is a series of judged events involving livestock and a variety of other projects for youths, with many participants 4-H members.

In one concession to normalcy, Kuhn said, each junior-fair participant will receive four passes to allow family members to attend judging.

Another change that wasn't in the original plan is owners of race horses will be allowed at the track the days their horses are racing, she said.

At a special meeting held Aug. 31, the fair board considered a plan to allow 1,500 spectators to view this year's harness racing, including the Little Brown Jug scheduled for Sept. 24.

In past years, the Brown Jug has averaged about 40,000 spectators.

The fair board decided it was too late to pull together the planning needed for even a reduced number of race fans, Kuhn said.

A small number of food vendors will be on the grounds to serve junior-fair and harness-racing participants, Wright said.

In keeping with DeWine's order, the fair will be missing rides, games, merchants who occupied the merchants building and coliseum and most food vendors, he said. Also missing will be the senior-fair livestock events in which adults participate.

As in previous years, simulcasts of the week's races will be broadcast in hundreds of locations throughout the world, Wright said. That number of sites -- brick-and-mortar venues, such as Scioto Downs -- might exceed last year's total of 420, Wright said.

In addition, he said, a number of websites will broadcast the races and allow wagering. Those websites will be listed at littlebrownjug.com, he said.

For more about the fair, go to delawarecountyfair.com.

editorial@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekNews