It’s that time of the year again when the local community should be gearing up for another fair season at the Delaware County Fairgrounds. That’s not the case, however, as the 2020 Delaware County Fair will be only a shell of its normal magnificence thanks to significant restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Although the fair will still begin on its regularly scheduled date of Sept. 19, few people will have access to the fairgrounds throughout the duration of the fair. In July, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine issued a statewide mandate stating that all fairs after July 31 would be limited to junior fairs only. All livestock competitions, 4-H competitions, and FFA events will still be permitted, albeit with few spectators.
Junior fair participants and their immediate families will receive wristbands prior to the start of the fair. Only those with wristbands will be permitted onto the fairgrounds. All attendees will be asked to perform a daily symptom assessment, including taking temperatures.
Due to the restrictions on attendance, the livestock auctions will be entirely on a virtual platform, and there will be no actual sales as part of the auction. The “add-on-only” system is a donation system that means that while the exhibitors will still go home with some money, no sales will take place on the fairgrounds. Exhibitors are free to negotiate sales with buyers off the grounds, however.
As part of the mandate, DeWine said harness racing will also be permitted to be held, preserving the 75th running of the Little Brown Jug. However, no spectators will be permitted at the track, making for a bittersweet milestone for Delaware’s beloved race.
“It is a disappointing day for us,” said Tom Wright, director of racing and president of the Delaware County Agricultural Society, following DeWine’s mandate. “We have been working diligently with the Delaware County Health Department, and we felt we could put on a safe event on a smaller scale. We respect the directive and will do our part to make sure we have a safe event for all.”
Fans will still be able to watch and wager on the race, which will run on Sept. 24, as it will be shown through its simulcast network, which includes Scioto Downs. Wagers on the race can be placed at websites such as Twinspires, OffTrackBetting, and more.
Even though wagers can still be placed, Wright told The Gazette in July that the lack of on-track betting will be a staggering blow to the race’s financial situation moving forward.
“My take is five times better when it’s on-track than it is off-track,” Wright said. “It’s sad. The handle is one thing. Then there are gate receipts, ticket sales, and box seat sales. Campers are a huge part of us and that’s probably no more. This wipes out almost every source of revenue we have.”
The general public will be allowed into the fairgrounds on Friday, Sept. 25, and Saturday, Sept. 26, to purchase food from food vendors. All who wish to purchase food on those days must enter through the gate located between Euclid Avenue and the U.S. Army Reserve Center on Pennsylvania Avenue.