Canfield Fair Canceled, Junior Fair Not Open to Public

Updated 12 p.m. | Additional information from president of Canfield Fair board
CANFIELD, Ohio — The 174th Canfield Fair scheduled for Labor Day weekend is canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

This year’s fair will be limited to a Junior Fair only – meaning the fairgrounds will be closed to the public. Only members of the Junior Fair and their families will be permitted.

Ward Campbell, president of the fair board, said he called a special meeting of the directors Monday night about whether the fair should be canceled in light of the recent spike of COVID-19 cases in the state. The Mahoning County Agricultural Society Board of Directors, which manages the fair, issued a statement shortly before 11 a.m., acknowledging that conducting a full fair is not possible.

“We decided that for the health and well-being of our employees, volunteers and fair-goers, we could not safely pull it off,” Campbell said. “We could have ended up with a big crowd of 80,000 on Saturday and Sunday,” he noted, which would have made social distancing impossible. “So we decided to downsize to a Junior Fair only.”

At its June meeting, the board confirmed its intention to go ahead with the fair, but without grandstand shows. It expected that crowds would be much smaller than normal.

But the sharp rise in cases in Ohio and across the nation changed board members’ minds. On July 1, the Ohio Department of Health reported more than 1,000 new cases of COVID-19, the disease spread by the coronavirus – the highest increase in cases since the virus peaked in the state around mid-April.

Additionally, a new color-coded Public Health Advisory System launched by the state July 2 has Trumbull County at the second-highest warning level.

“With the spike [in cases] we were having, and Trumbull County in the red zone, and Mahoning County as a hot spot before,” Campbell said the board felt it had to reverse its earlier decision.

He and other directors had been hoping that the virus would be under control by Sept. 2, when the six-day fair was to begin.

“I understood that warmer weather would get it under control, with less chance of spread. But obviously with Arizona, Florida and Texas having trouble, that’s not the case,” Campbell said.

He blamed a lack of social distancing and disregard for other measures for the flareup of the virus.

Many county fairs had already been canceled this year, including those in Trumbull and Columbiana counties.

The Junior Fair will go on as planned at the Canfield Fairgrounds over Labor Day weekend, but the public will not be admitted.

Six county youth groups – 4H, Future Farmers of America, the Boy Scouts of America, Girl Scouts of America, Campfire Girls and Grange – participate. Their members display sewing, gardening and other projects, and also show livestock they have raised.

The Junior Fair livestock and dairy sales will take place in the fairgrounds’ new Junior Fair building Sept. 3 and 4.

“We will try to salvage all we can for the youths,” Campbell said. “They’ve had it pretty rough with no school, no graduation or prom. We’re confident we can pull this off with only 3,000 to 5,000 people [on the grounds], as opposed to 50,000 to 100,000 every day. We will spread it out across the fairgrounds.”

All Junior Fair members and/or their parents who attend will be required to sign an Acknowledgment and Waiver Form related to COVID-19. Information will be posted in the near future on the Mahoning County Junior Fair website. Attendees will receive a wrist band to wear throughout the Fair. 

The Junior Fair will be operated in accordance with guidance available from the Mahoning County Public Health Department and the State of Ohio, according to the fair board’s announcement. 

“It is with tremendous regret that we acknowledge that conducting a full Fair is not possible in 2020,” the board said in a statement released Tuesday morning. “Limiting the fair allows Junior Fair members the opportunity to participate in the numerous programs and events available to them, while also recognizing the significant health and safety issues facing the general public, our volunteers and our team.”

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.