Like everyone and everything, the Wayne County Fair and its affiliated vendors and operators suffered a hit from the pandemic when it made itself present in the US around this time last year. As the fair’s presumed return neared closer and closer, the board was faced with some tough decisions about how to proceed with the fair or if they could proceed at all.

Matt Martin, Wayne County Fair Manager, said that, “From the beginning of the pandemic in March through September we had 7 Restart Ohio and 2 Directors COVID orders each one limited us in what we were able to do. By the fair time in September, we were able to hold a Jr. Fair only which included 4-H, FFA, School art projects and harness racing with no spectators. The only real choices that we had was to either have a full fair, a Jr. Fair or no fair at all.”

From the very beginning, the committee was committed to having a full fair. However, due to the restrictions, they were limited to a Jr Fair only and the Harness racing with no spectators.

“We were created to host a fair and that is who we are,” Matt said. “The choices were simple as far as what to do. We did as much as we possibly could have, and we were able to host a successful fair. Success is not only based upon dollars but also on the impact that we have made in our community and to the kids involved in the Jr Fair.”

There were issues with vendors strictly due to COVID, as many had to opt out. However, because of the restrictions that were eventually put in place by the Governor the vendors that they did have were limited. There is hope to invite all of them back this year.

Regarding this year, the committee is in the process of planning a full fair but can scale back as deemed by the Governor and Re Start Ohio as new COVID guidelines are set in place. “I don’t think we will ever return to what was “normal” we will have to shape what the “new normal” will look like and that may be different for each individual as they determine what is best for them,” Matt explained. “The Governor this week has expanded the limited seating capacity at outdoor entertainment venues to 30% capacity. It is our hopes that this is increased significantly before tickets to our Grandstand entertainment go on sale June 26.”

Restrictions aside, there is still a lot to be excited about this year. There will be several events hosted by the fairgrounds starting in spring that you will be able to check including the Ohio Gun Show April 10th and 11th. Other events can be found on the Wayne County Fair websites calendar page. COVID adjustments to these events will be made according

The fair itself, presents a new year of opportunity. “I am most excited to see our community return to being just that a community,” Matt said before diving into more detail. “I am also excited to give the kids the 4-H experience that the memories will last them a lifetime. The food concessions, vendors, ride operators, game operators have gone along time without a paycheck. Many of them have not worked consistently since the fall of 2019. Many of them have been in a financial hardship since then and many will never fully recover. The ripple effects of our fair reach out beyond what many people see. Local business such as restaurants, hotels and merchants receive increased business throughout the year when we have events.”

As far as food wagons are concerned, the hope is that the season for the food vendors is back too normal and they can do their planned routes. However, if it is not and the fair has an opportunity to support them until they can resume, then the fair will definitely do so.

As time passes and information about the upcoming season is more forthcoming, we will have more of an idea of how our community will be impacted and how much support will be needed to help the fair affiliates, vendors and operators alike.

One group busy working behind the scenes to ensure financial support for the future of the Wayne County Fair are the Friends of the Wayne County Fair. Despite the COVID setbacks in 2020, the Friends of the Fair board are continuing their fundraising efforts as they plan for the upcoming Music and Ribfest taking place June 4th and 5th at the fairgrounds along with the Annual Golf Outing in June and a new Gun Bash fundraiser in October.