Before the Delaware County Agricultural Society Board could meet again on Tuesday evening to continue discussions on the 2020 Delaware County Fair, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine took much of the decision-making ability out of the board’s hands with the issuing of a statewide mandate on county fairs.
As part of DeWine’s mandate, all county fairs starting on or after July 31 will be limited to junior fairs only. All livestock competitions, 4-H competitions, and FFA events will still be permitted. In addition to the junior fair, harness racing will be allowed, although no spectators will be permitted.
“It is a disappointing day for us,” said Tom Wright, director of racing and president of the Delaware County Agricultural Society, in a social media post. “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.”
Sandy Kuhn, secretary of the agricultural society board, said the junior fair has been condensed, with the goal of not having two species in the same barn at one time. She said that, as an example, poultry and rabbits have been in the same barn in past years. This year, poultry will come in for the show on Saturday, Sept. 19, and will be released the same day. Rabbits will be checked in, shown, and released all in one day on Monday, Sept. 21.
“Part of that determination came with a couple of things,” Kuhn said. “One was how busy the barns are, and to lower the number of people in them. The second piece of that was to be able to find buyers for those animals as far as what we call a packer bid … Part of that was being able to line up the trucking to get (the animals not purchased) shipped out of there.”
DeWine’s permitting of harness racing will allow the 75th edition of the Little Brown Jug to run, albeit with no fans. The agricultural society voted Tuesday to move forward with the race, and the race will be simulcasted to allow for off-site betting of the race.
The lack of betting at the track will mean a significant hit to the profitability of the event. Wright said the difference in the amount of money bet at the track for the race compared to online is “almost a 5-to-1 ratio” in a normal year.
“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.”
Despite the devastating blow of not being able to have spectators at the race, Wright said cancelling the race was never really an option, at least not to him.
“I’m president of the Little Brown Jug Society as well,” Wright said. “In my eyes, it was never an option, for a couple of reasons. Regardless of it being the 75th race or any of that, it’s something that Delaware has, and I don’t ever want it to go away. I’d almost feel like if we didn’t have the race, we’d be taking a step backwards, and that’s the last thing I want to do.”
Even though the race will be only a shell of its typical magnificence, Wright said he has found that plenty of people are still willing to sponsor the event, which helps. “There are a lot of people that, God bless them, they love our race,” Wright said.
Further information regarding previously purchased tickets will be mailed in the near future, the agricultural society states in the release. Supporters of the Little Brown Jug and the Delaware County Fair are urged to visit LittleBrownJug.com and DelawareCountyFair.com for the latest news.
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.