Visitors to the 2019 Jay County?Fair enjoy a ride down the giant slide. Jay County?Fair Board on?Thursday voted to scale back this year’s fair because of concerns about the coronavirus pandemic. The board will meet again Tuesday to finalize details of the new schedule, which will be announced at noon Wednesday. (The Commercial Review/Ray Cooney)
Visitors to the 2019 Jay County?Fair enjoy a ride down the giant slide. Jay County?Fair Board on?Thursday voted to scale back this year’s fair because of concerns about the coronavirus pandemic. The board will meet again Tuesday to finalize details of the new schedule, which will be announced at noon Wednesday. (The Commercial Review/Ray Cooney)
There will be a fair. But it will be different.

Jay County Fair Board on Thursday voted to scale back the event because of concerns about the coronavirus pandemic.

“Due to the concerns for the safety and well-being of fair visitors, volunteers, vendors and exhibitors, and after significant and thorough consideration, the Jay County Fair Board has voted to continue with the 2020 Jay County Fair with a new look and schedule,” the fair board said in a press release. “The uncertainty around planning for large gatherings, as well as the concerns regarding proper implementation of COVID-19 safety protocols at such a large venue and along with financial consideration, also contributed to the very difficult decision to change this community event.”

Details of what that will mean for the fair will be finalized at another board meeting Tuesday, with an announcement of the schedule and scope of the event set for noon Wednesday.

“We’re going to have something,” said fair board president Brian Aker after the meeting. “We have (a schedule) in our mind, but I wanted everybody to think about it before this is what we do. It’s short notice trying to do all this.”



The Jay County 4-H Fair, which is governed by Purdue Extension and the local 4-H council, is set to move forward in a different format this year as well. Purdue Extension at the state level had announced May 15 4-H fairs can occur after Purdue’s restrictions on face-to-face events end June 30.

Allison Keen, Jay County’s Purdue Extension director and educator of 4-H development, posted on the local extension office’s Facebook page this morning that the fair would be held in a “show and go” format — animals will not stay at the fairgrounds — because of the requirement that social distancing guidelines be followed.

“We cannot feasibly adhere to social distancing with all animal species present at the same time,” she said in the post. “This means that you will bring only the animals you will show that day and then return them home after the show.”

As scheduled, the Jay County Fair was to run nine days from Friday, July 10, through Saturday, July 19, with bookend demolition derbies. (In its usual format, the 4-H fair would have started July 11, with shows through July 15, the supreme showmanship competition July 16 and the auction July 17.) Tracy Lawrence, with Sammy Kershaw as his opening act, was slated as the headline entertainment for the July 17 country concert.

Other scheduled grandstand events include concerts with oldies group 45RPM, Christian music artist Jordan Feliz, a monster truck show and a rodeo. Other entertainment was to include a magic show, butterfly exhibit, sideshow acts and the traditional Farmer’s Building concerts and events.

The fair board discussed all of the possibilities — going forward with the fair as scheduled, moving it later in the year, scaling it back and eliminating it entirely — during Thursday’s meeting that lasted more than four hours.

The ultimate goal, Aker said, was to keep the fair festivities during the same week as the Jay County 4-H Fair, which is governed by the local Purdue Extension Office, and to provide the community with an event.

“What can we do to give the public something?” was the main focus of the meeting, he said. “We just didn’t want to follow trend with everybody else and cancel. … We wanted to provide them with something.

“We can give the public something, so they can get out, enjoy fair food … we’re hoping to have rides there for kids. Just entertainment, so people can get out there and enjoy a little bit …”

The cancellations Aker mentioned include the Ohio State Fair, which organizers announced Thursday will take a “hiatus” this year. It marks the first time since World War II that the event will not be held.

In Indiana, fairs that have been canceled thus far include those in Monroe, St. Joseph, Bartholomew, Noble, Stark, Rush, Owen and Washington counties. Several others have changed the dates of their events or scaled them back significantly as Jay County plans to do.

Aker quoted a fellow fair board member regarding the decision to host an event this year.

“We’re put on this board to provide a fair for the public and that’s what we’re going to do,” he said.

Mercer County Fair, which is scheduled for Aug. 14 through 20, is currently on as scheduled but with organizers working on a variety of changes to follow health district and state guidelines.

Fort Recovery Harvest Jubilee was canceled because of the pandemic. The jubilee committee will hold a drive-thru BBQ chicken dinner June 21 and plans to hold a raffle later this summer.

Purdue Extension’s guidance for allowing county 4-H fairs requires that the county is in the fifth state of Gov. Eric Holcomb’s Back on Track Indiana plan (currently scheduled to begin July 4). It requires that fairs adhere to social distancing guidelines, screen employees and volunteers working on behalf of the extension daily as well as disinfecting high-traffic areas.

“We want to make sure we are doing everything possible to protect our 4-H’ers, their families and community,” assistant director of extension and 4-H youth development program leader Casey Mull said. “All 4-H youth who want to exhibit this summer will be able to through virtual or face-to-face mechanisms.”

All Purdue Extension staff, volunteers and 4-H participants will be required to wear a face mask or covering and adhere to social distancing guidelines for the Jay County 4-H Fair.

In her post, Keen said the different format will likely require a change in the show schedule, though details have not been finalized. Efforts are also being made to hold an auction, though that will look different from the traditional event as well.

“There is bad news and good news,” said Keen in the post. “Bad news, it will look different, it will be hot and uncomfortable wearing a face mask/covering, and it will be difficult hauling animals back and forth. Good news, we can have an in-person fair.”

Aker noted that the fair board has worked with Jay County Health Department and that it will have additional health safety measures in place. It will be required to have evacuation plans in place in the case of inclement weather to avoid having large groups congregating together indoors.

“There’s things that we have to do to get ready, for sure,” said Aker.