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Not fair: Disappointment follows veto on state’s agricultural events

Staff file photo / R. Michael Semple Logan Smallsreed, then 11, of Southington, a member of the 4-H Trumbull County Dairy Judging Team, has a little talk with “Edith,” before showing her at the 2019 Trumbull County Fair. Last year’s fair was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and this year’s fair also is on track to be canceled.

Rodney Arter, president of the Ohio Fair Managers Association Board of Directors, expressed disappointment with Gov. Mike DeWine’s veto of legislation to allow fairs to operate as usual in 2021.

The decision could have a major impact on the 175th annual Canfield Fair, set for Sept. 1-6, and 175th Trumbull County Fair, set for July 13-18.

Senate Bill 375 would have voided the previous public health order that restricted Ohio fairs to junior fairs only.

“Obviously it’s very disappointing, but we’re going to continue to push forward,” Arter said. “We have a lot of support in the House and Senate.”

With the uncertainty of COVID-19 at the time and in an effort to curb the spread of the virus, DeWine announced fairs would be limited as of July 31, 2020.

“The issuance of the order was necessary to prevent the spread of COVID-19 while preserving the essence of our fairs,” DeWine wrote in his Monday veto message. “It is reasonable and necessary for the current order to remain in effect while the collaborative efforts occur.”

Reasoning his decision to veto, he wrote, “it is not in the best interest of protecting the health and safety of all Ohioans.”

Canfield Fair Manager Bev Fisher said the veto is basically saying, “not yet.”

She said it appears DeWine is leaving the future of fairs on the table for now and waiting to see where the state will be at in the coming months.

“The July 2020 bill is still in effect, which means we are still at a Junior Fair (only),” Fisher said. “The governor is just asking us to be patient and see what the vaccines do and what the numbers are.”

She said Senate Bill 375 would have allowed a full fair, and for Canfield, that means being able to hold a big celebration of its 175th event.

“We are trying to move forward cautiously,” Fisher said. “We are at a standstill, but we are moving forward.”

She said it is important to continue planning at this point. With a special anniversary year, no one is ready to pull the plug if there is any chance of holding a full fair.

“Everything depends on what happens with the pandemic and vaccine and where it is at prior to the start of the fair season in June,” she said.

For the Trumbull County Fair, longtime member Tom Sawyer said the board has not hosted a meeting to discuss the latest development.

“I hope we can have it — I really do,” he said.

Trumbull board member Jack Lammers said the fair is still on despite the uncertainty.

“It’s still a go. We’re still getting ready for it even though things are still up in the air,” Lammers said. “All we can do is plan for it still.”

The introduction of the Moderna and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines, however, may offer some relief.

“The vaccine could be a huge benefit. I think the fairs still need to pay attention to health factors,” Arter said.

Moving forward, DeWine said in his veto message that his administration will continue consulting with health professionals at the state and local level.

“It is imperative that such fairs be conducted in a safe manner that reflect the facts on the ground at the time,” DeWine wrote.

Arter said the next step is to continue conversations with Ohio’s senators and representatives. He said fairs in general have tremendous support at the state level and such support is needed.

The proposed, and subsequently vetoed, bill would have created the Agricultural Society Working Group for 2021.

According to the bill, the group “shall publish initial recommended protocols not later than April 10, 2021” meaning the group would establish necessary guidelines for fairs.

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