Fair board moving forward with planning for 2021 county fair

The 2021 Jackson County Fair is set for July 25 to 31.

The Jackson County Fair Association announced during a meeting Monday night that plans are underway to have the county’s largest event a year after it was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The cancellation, announced in May 2020, was a unified decision between the fair board, Jackson County 4-H Council and Purdue Extension Jackson County.

The 4-H aspect of the fair was offered virtually in 2020, but the other parts of the annual event at the fairgrounds in Brownstown were nixed.

“We want to have a fair. We really want that out there,” fair board member Tom Ritz said during Monday’s meeting at Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1925 in Seymour.

“That is our intention — to have a full-blown fair — but it will depend on any restrictions that are in place at that time,” board President Tom Martin added.

Martin told members he would like all committees to think about what their contingency plans would be.

“We may be a full-blown fair in July. Who knows? But we’ve got to think about Option B and Option C if we’re under yellow or orange at that time,” he said, referring to the Indiana State Department of Health’s color-coding system that’s based on the COVID-19 positivity rate.

“What could we do for your piece of the fair to make it work?” Martin said. “One way in and out through buildings, handwashing stations, all of that good stuff. Or Option C if it’s just going to be limited to just having a show-and-go, not being able to do the carnival or we just have buildings open to walk through. Be thinking about those options.”

Fair board member Richard Beckort said it will be especially important to give the 4-H kids the best experience possible. At this point in time, though, he said no one knows what that might be.

With the 2020 virtual exhibition, 648 Jackson County 4-H’ers turned in a total of 1,375 projects. That’s out of nearly 800 boys and girls in the 4-H program.

“Be thinking about A, B and C through your departments, what you might do, what you might be able to do and what’s the bare minimum that you can get by with as we face those questions,” Beckort said.

Ritz said it may be best to do open livestock shows outside of fair week so it doesn’t interfere with 4-H shows if the fair goes back to its regular format.

“If we’re just a show-and-go type situation, I don’t know that we want to try to throw that in the mix. We may not have the open sheep show during the fair,” he said. “It’s more important for me to have the 4-H part of the fair than it is to have the open sheep show part. I don’t want to mess that up.”

Other aspects of the fair, including the exhibit buildings, carnival and grandstand, are important to consider, too, Beckort said. That includes getting exhibitors checked in, judging projects and setting up traffic flow.

“It’s those types of things that we might have to really rethink the philosophy,” he said. “’We’ve done it for 40 years this way’ might not be the way that we do it again.”

Ritz asked fair board member Linda Myers about any restrictions from FFA, which has the county’s chapters set up in the Young MacDonald’s Farm building. Myers, who is adviser of Crothersville FFA, said it will depend upon if the schools allow them to participate.

Martin said he recently was part of a Zoom call with other county fair representatives around the state, and all of them hope to have regular fairs with no restrictions this year.

“But we’re also putting all of these plans in place in case it is restricted at that time. We’re going to be ready for it,” he said.

He hopes to have a decision made in April or May.

“By then, we’ll probably know where we’re going to be at, have a good idea of where we’ll be at in July,” Martin said.

According to Tribune files, the fair’s first year in Brownstown was 1939. Fair board member Jim Thompson, whose family has been involved in the fair every year since then, said the only times the fair was canceled were one year during World War II and last year due to the pandemic.

The fair has an average attendance of 130,000 people.