At Wednesday’s County Commissioners work session the commissioners announced that they are prepared to vote in favor of canceling the 2020 Crawford County Fair due to COVID-19 concerns.

The Fair Board had unanimously approved a motion at the May 14 County Fair board meeting to make a final decision about the 2020 Fair by June 1. The board also approved a motion to reach out to Variety Attractions contracting company proposing to move the artist contracts to 2021. 

Fair Board President George Deshner said at the May 14 meeting that the time is drawing near to make a decision on the fair and announce that decision to the public. A special meeting would be scheduled to finalize a decision.

Despite some debate between board members and others about whether the proposed two week period was a fair amount of time to make such a substantial decision, all three Crawford County Commissioners arrived at their final conclusions about the issue at the Wednesday meeting.

County Commissioner Christopher Soff opened statements for the discussion on the County Fair with a recommendation that, “it is in the best interest of the citizens of Crawford County, both their health and safety as well as to protect the financial security of both the fair board and the county, that we should cancel the 2020 Crawford County Fair.”

He added that if the fair board has not come to a decision before the commissioners voting meeting next week, he recommended discussing and voting on it at the meeting.

“The fair board is fully aware of how I feel. I think it’s the right thing to do. It’s painful to come to that conclusion, but again I think it’s the right thing to do,” Soff said.

Fair Board President George Deshner told The Herald Wednesday that the fair board is looking to schedule the special meeting for sometime next week after they hear back from some of their entertainment acts about extending their contracts into next year.

He said that the board had heard back from a number of the grandstand entertainers but is waiting to get official responses before scheduling the special session.

County Commissioner Francis Weiderspahn Jr. brought concerns about students getting infected at the fair and bringing that into the schools. The health of volunteers were also an area of concern he believed the commissioners should take into consideration. 

“I hate to think that we have to do this but it’s the best thing for us all,” he said.

Weiderspahn Jr. listed three concerns that should have a weight on the final decision: financial, health and liability.

County Commissioner Eric Henry addressed the three concerns, and and spoke of the effects of social distancing, extra cleaning and common surface cleaning, removing benches to have fewer surfaces to clean, the screenings that would be required, ticket sales concerning concerts and selling specific seats to maintain social distancing. 

“I think it’s important for everyone to understand that those three factors alone are why, in my mind, it is the best thing to do this year to not have the fair.”

Henry told The Herald on Wednesday that an additional concern is for the vendors whose contract deadlines are May 31. Insurance concerns and costs created an additional point to consider in the discussion on whether to cancel the fair. Weiderspahn Jr. said that they had discussed the likelihood of canceling the fair.

“The sooner a decision is made the better for all involved,” he said. 

All of the commissioners stated that the decision needed to be made in the interest of the health and well being of county citizens as well as for the financial health of the county and fair board.

“This is a hard decision, but we need to make the decision that’s best for everyone,” Henry said.

The commissioners said they have had a lot of communication with the fair board about the cancelation of the fair. The commissioners also engaged in discussion with epidemiologists, insurance carriers and risk managers.

In a written response to the commissioners meeting, the Crawford County Fair Board said, “Given the complexity, the resources, and the level of coordination required to make the Commonwealth’s largest agricultural fair a possibility, the fair board has asked for time to communicate with the numerous entities and organizations in order to finalize a plan, as well as to assess the financial impact of such plans in order to make a responsible decision that protects the health both of the community and the fair itself for future generations.”

The fair board is currently contacting the entertainment acts to extend their contracts into 2021. 

We wanted the time to be able to contact all these people,”  Deshner said. “We’ve been working on that very diligently since the board meeting (last week).”

The board has also organized a contingency planning committee to evaluate recommendations made by the state fair association and explore virtual presentations and other opportunities.

The response by the fair also clarified that any delays by the board were to allow time to make informed decisions regarding finances and liability as well as in the best interests of the exhibitors, vendors, sponsors, attendees, and the general public. 

Wednesday’s commissioner’s meeting was aired on YouTube as county buildings remain closed to the public. 

The Herald asked both Deshner and Henry if commissioners had the authority to cancel the fair prior to a vote by the fair board. Neither supplied an answer to the question.

 

Schrecengost can be reached, by email, at kschrecengost@titusvilleherald.com.

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