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Sedgwick County Fair canceled due to coronavirus pandemic

KSN Digital Extra

CHENEY, Kan. (KSNW) – These days event cancellations are nothing new. However, many people were caught off guard by an announcement Wednesday morning stating the 2020 Sedgwick County Fair would be canceled. 

The fair shared a post on Facebook stating that, “COVID-19 has turned life upside down and changed how we approach everyday life. The restrictions on mass gatherings along with the public health protocols present challenges that we ultimately could not overcome.”

Members of the board, along with representatives of the Sedgwick County Health Department, Kansas Department of Health & Environment, Sedgwick County Law Enforcement, and Sedgwick County Commissioners met Tuesday night to discuss the likelihood of producing a safe event for 2020. 

“The longer we discussed it, the more concerned we became with too many things that we couldn’t control. Too many things that were, out of hand for us,” Sedgwick County Fair Board Vice President, Marti Johnson told KSN. “We didn’t feel like we could be safe under all the different scenarios that may present themselves.”

Johnson says that the fair, which would have taken place from July 8-11, averages about 30,000 visitors to the fairground during the 4-day event, logistically making it difficult to safeguard.

Those involved with the fair have been having the cancellation discussion since February according to Johnson. But, with time to prepare is getting shorter and the potential spikes in COVID-19 cases looming higher, the board decided it would be in the best interested to cancel for 2020.

Johnson told KSN that putting on the fair requires months of planning and coordination.

“It’s not like I wake up some morning and say, ‘I’ll get my nails done and have a county fair.’ It’s a little more complicated than that. There’s a lot more finance involved in that,” Johnson added. 

Though many on social media are clamoring for the fair to go on, the cost to produce the event is typically in the $1 million range according to the K-State Extension Office. Worried about low turnout and those who would participate in having limited funds to spend to support the event is one of the many factors the board considered before coming to it’s the decision. 

“The reality is if we don’t have a carnival, and we don’t have a successful demolition derby, we don’t make enough money to be able to host the fair the following year, said Johnson. “While the demolition derby drivers are going to be socially distant in their cars, the 3000 fans that are in the grandstands won’t be. It takes one person showing up who’s infected and all of a sudden you have a cluster and they got sick at the fair.”

The fair’s Facebook page says the Sedgwick County Extension office is making decisions about the 4-H livestock show and whether or not that will be canceled as well.

“Hindsight is twenty-twenty, and if we were too careful and too conservative, I’d rather be on that side of the fence than being on the side of the fence that went ahead and did it anyway, and now we have people who are sick and possibly dying. That’s just not an acceptable place to be.”

The Sedgwick County Fair plans to return in 2021.

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