Ohio legislators and Gov. Mike DeWine collaborated on an initiative that provides financial assistance to county fairs across the state and relaxes guidelines paving the way for the 198th Great Geauga County Fair over Labor Day weekend.
Measures taken in mid-March to control the spread of the coronavirus caused local officials to wonder if a fair would be possible this year.
Officials say the extra money will help with the late planning.
“They barely make money,” state Rep. Diane Grendell, R-Chester, said, emphasizing the need to give fairs a financial boost. “Because they cost so much for licenses and fees, junior fairs, they’re lucky if they come out even. They’re not big moneymakers at all.”
Rep. Grendell said that the initiative has allotted $50,000 to county fair boards that are still having junior fairs, and $15,000 to counties that are only holding regular fairs because junior fairs tend to lose money. Some counties have cancelled their fairs altogether.
The money, which she said has already been sent out, is being sourced from the state’s agricultural budget.
“That’s definitely not a little $50,000 bonus, that’s a huge $50,000 bonus,” explained Paul Harris, secretary of Geauga County’s Senior Fair Board, who said that his board’s preliminary numbers for spending on personal protective equipment and cleaning are about $100,000.
“That’s the preliminary numbers coming in, it’s going to take that or better,” he added. “Safety is always our primary concern, it doesn’t matter if it’s during a pandemic or not. This is not something new, we’re just ramping up those efforts because our goal at the end of the day is to provide a family fun event for everybody and make it safe, so that’s what we’re going to do.”
Rep. Grendell said the financial boost is important for Geauga County because it’s the most continuous fair in Ohio, having started in 1823 and persisting through the Civil War, World Wars I and II and the Great Depression.
“This is a good example of House and Senate and the governor all working together,” she said.
The state’s guidelines for fairs are more general.
“We were prepared even with the initial guidelines to move forward with the full fair, so these newest guidelines that have come out have relaxed that, which makes it even easier for us to have a full fair,” said Mr. Harris. “So that was super beneficial and we’re still hoping by September we’ll see another set of relaxations in.”