County fairs weighing options on whether to cancel or not

Vermilion County
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VERMILION COUNTY, Ill. (WCIA) — With the news of Macoupin County Fair’s cancellation rippling across Central Illinois, some county fair organizers were facing a tough decision Tuesday on whether to cancel their event because of COVID-19.

Those organizers were located in the counties of Vermilion and Ford. Their events would be held in the month of June. Officials for both events said Tuesday they were still in the process of making their decisions.

“I wish our board almost didn’t have to make this decision,” said Rick White. “It’s going to be difficult because no matter what we decide, some people are not going to be happy. It’s a ‘no-win.'”

If they have to cancel, it would be a first for White. He said he’s served as President for the Vermilion County Fair Board (VCFB) for “40-some years” and he’s never experienced “anything like this.”

My kids are grown adults now. They grew up with that fair. I’ve got grandkids that are grown adults that grew up at that fair, and I’ve got great-grandkids that are looking forward to the fair. So just in our family, it makes a big impact, and I can’t imagine what it does for the county. We try to put on a good show for people.”

Rick White, Vermilion County Fair Board President

White said the VCFB didn’t meet in April because of the virus, and he intends on holding a meeting this month. He added they’ll practice social distancing for that meeting.

“We’ve got a lot of bridges to cross whether we have a fair or not,” he said. “We have been in contact with all the people we have contracts with. They’re wanting us to have a fair very, very badly because of all the cancellations. We have to think of the spectators, our workers, and we have to think about the health of all those people and everything else.”

He also said the governor and the health departments can dictate to them whether they can hold their fair.

“The problem is we attract fairly decent crowds to our carnival and social distancing is not possible.”

He said a few years ago, they started offering unlimited carnival rides as apart of the entry fee, and because of that they get “flooded.”

White also said their 4-H program have delayed their activities to July 5., so it will not be apart of the county fair this year.

“We, at this time, don’t feel like we can entertain a date later in the year because of the conflicts with too many other fairs that are going on,” he said. “There’s no guarantee we can get our carnival in, or our food vendors, and all the other people that have to get together to put this fair on.

“If we don’t have our June date, it’d be difficult for us to have a fair at a later time. I’ve heard a lot of the fairs have talked about doing it online. That doesn’t work out well for us either.”

He said originally, they were holding off on making a decision until June 1. Now, he said they may make a decision sooner than that.

“We’re holding off as long as possible as we can to hopefully make a correct decision.,” he said.

“If we don’t have a fair, you still have to put together some type of program to elect a queen, so we can have representation in January at the state convention. Things have to happen even if you don’t have a fair.”

Tom Jones, Board President for the Coles County Fair said Tuesday they’re still going ahead with their preparations for their event. It’s planned for late July/early August.

“We’re hoping by that time, things will be a whole lot better,” Jones said, adding it will be according to what the governor does. He said the Illinois Department of Agriculture suggested that.

Jones said they’re waiting to make a decision until the first part of July.

“We’re the oldest, continuous fair in the State of Illinois and we’d hate to lose our record,” he said. “We still need to take into consideration the health and welfare of our visitors.”

WCIA reached out Champaign County Fair organizers Tuesday — a representative said their fair was scheduled as planned. That event is planned for July 23 – Aug. 1.

A representative with the Ford County Fair said Tuesday “We are weighing our options and will have an official announcement next week.” The fair is planned for June 13 – June 20.

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