BUTLER COUNTY, Ohio — A year after the Butler County Fair was “a ghost town” because of the coronavirus pandemic, “we will be having a full fair, but the social distancing, the masks, the hand-sanitizing” will be happening, said fair President Doug Turner.
Gov. Mike DeWine is recommending that fair events, including the very popular demolition derby, be limited to 30 percent grandstand capacity. That’s lower than was allowed last year for the derby, but Turner hopes those state restrictions will loosen by the time Butler County’s July 25-31 event arrives, as more people are vaccinated and if disease rates continue to drop, The Journal-News reported.
Unlike the 2020 edition of the event that has been operating since 1851, the fair will allow the general public to come in, will have rides, and include food concessions.
DeWine was to announce state restrictions on county fairs on Friday, but his office gave Turner and other fair leaders statewide advance notice of what they would be.
“Last year, all we could do was the junior fair,” he said. “So it is better, and we are going forward with a full fair this year. And they’re telling us that by the time our fair gets here, that a lot of the things may change. That’s our hope. Put it that way.”
All the events aren’t set up yet, but the fair intends to have all the nightly events, including the tractor pull, demolition derby and rodeo. People also will be allowed to ride the rides and tour the barns, although there will be one-way traffic for people walking through the barns.
Last year’s event “was very disappointing, and the fair was basically a ghost town,” Turner said.
Last year, children who exhibited animals could only come in the day of their particular show and had to go back home. Only their immediate family could watch their judging. There were only six food trailers at the 2020 event. Unlike prior fairs, nobody could stay overnight.
The 30 percent grandstand capacity is “going to be tough,” he said. “Out of everything that’s happening, that’s probably the biggest thing we hope gets lightened.”
Last year, the Butler County Fair had only one grandstand event, the demolition derby on the event’s final night.
“And we were allowed to do 50 percent,” Turner said. “We did OK with that. Our demolition derby’s the biggest event we have down there.”
Last year’s fair “did just a little bit above breaking even, and the biggest reason for that was the governor gave every fair that had a junior fair $50,000,” Turner said. Without that, “we would have lost, big time.”
The Journal-News is a media partner of WCPO.