Canfield Fair Is a Go, but Smaller and No Major Concerts

CANFIELD, Ohio — The Canfield Fair will take place this year but there will be some changes.

“We’re planning on it,” said Ward Campbell, fair board president, at Tuesday’s board meeting. A lot can still happen between now and September, he continued, but for now all systems are go.

“Things could change,” Campbell said, “but at this point we have to plan on having it and we are committed to it. It will not be normal. It will be downsized.”

Fair-goers should expect the usual measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus: social distancing, one-way signs for pedestrians, face masks on all workers, hand sanitizer stations and Plexiglas partitions anywhere money is exchanged.

But don’t expect to see any major entertainers at the grandstand.

Concerts by nationally known rock and country bands and comedians are a staple of the fair, but social distancing restrictions would reduce the capacity of the grandstand to about 2,500 – less than half of its normal 6,200 seats. That would make if impossible to break even, said George Roman, the fair’s entertainment director. The fair spends between $250,000 and $400,000 annually on grandstand shows, he said.

Roman said it is likely that there will be a demolition derby on Friday night of the fair, which will take place Sept. 2-9, and possibly some smaller acts.
Last month, Gov. Mike DeWine turned over all fair decisions and protocols to each county fair board and board of health.

Canfield Fair board members met Tuesday evening to discuss this year’s event.

The Canfield Fair Board has already had meetings with the Mahoning County Board of Health, Campbell said. No limits are being set by the state or county on the number of people who will be allowed on the grounds.

“Originally, there was talk of a percentage,” Campbell said, but such restrictions were deemed unnecessary. “We are 182 acres within the gates and it’s open air, and that is a lot of the reason why we can have this.”

There is no way to control attendance at the massive event anyway, Campbell noted. “If 40,000 people show up, we can’t shut the gate for number 40,001,” he said.

Another fact is that attendance is almost certain to not even be an issue. Campbell and the board know that fair attendance will be sharply down this year. Fair attendance in 2019 exceeded 340,000 over all six days, topping at over 80,000 on Saturday.

“It will be a lot less this year and it will be manageable,” Campbell said. The board will recommend that senior citizens and those with compromised immune systems not attend, he added.

The statewide shutdown of gatherings has already cut into the fair board’s revenues and Campbell expects that to continue.

“I’m resigned to the fact that we’re not going to make money this year,” he said. “We’ve just got to control our expenses and hopefully put on a good show, and we’re determined to do that.”

Campbell has asked each of the fair board’s department heads to cut their expenses to offset declining revenue. “At the end of the day, we got to pay the bills,” he said.

The fair board approved two other events at Tuesday’s meeting. A drive-in fireworks festival will take place on the Fourth of July, with admission tentatively set at $10 a carload.

A second Fair Food Extravaganza will also take place some time in July. The inaugural three-day Extravaganza took place last weekend and was a success, attracting close to 3,800 cars. About a dozen fair food vendors participated in the first event.

Pictured at top: While fair-goers will likely be treated to a demolition derby at the grandstand this year, concerts are a no go.

Copyright 2020 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.