The Ogle County Fair Association’s three focuses are community, family and friends. In efforts to protect those things, it canceled its annual fair for the first time in 167 years.
OCFA Publicist Christine Carter said the board decided unanimously on May 15, and delayed its decision by weeks in hopes the fair could still be held.
“It was a very sober discussion with pros and cons as far as managing health and safety,” Carter said. “There would have been so many factors that we would have had to implement between now and the fair.”
Carter said the state phase of reopening that would allow the fair to happen would have “cut it close” on being in place by the time of the July 29 to Aug. 2 fair.
“Our focus has always been on the health and welfare of our communities, families and friends,” a Facebook statement from the OCFA said last week. “While we strive each year to put on the best and most affordable fair, the global impact of the COVID pandemic has created necessary action.”
Sanitizing the venue, increased social distancing, sanitation stations, temperature and health screening were factors considered.
The board said it was extremely saddened to have to make the decision. Health risks and added layers necessary for safety far outweighed the benefits of having the fair.
“We could have never expected this to happen but putting our fair goers at risk would never be worth it in the long run,” OCFA President Tom Simpson said. “Safety has to come first. We are all looking forward to next year and making it the best fair Ogle County has ever seen.”
Reaction from the public to the decision has been mixed. Many have reached out with positive support of the decision, but others were disappointed.
“But we haven’t seen anger,” Carter said.
One event that will still be happening is the annual 4-H competition that usually takes place at the fair. But it won’t be in conjunction with the OCFA.
The Ogle County 4-H will be planning it and managing it on its own. Carter said she was unsure how it will look.
The fair is held each year just west of Oregon. Mayor Ken Williams called the decision “sad and difficult.”
He’s unsure what the fair does for the city’s economy each year numbers wise, but that it does attract visitors from all over the area and helps hotels, restaurants and gas stations. He was hoping there was still a chance the fair could happen.
“It’s part of our community,” Williams said. “It’s going to be missed but next year it’ll be back and better than ever.”