There’s no doubt the fair industry is suffering during the coronavirus pandemic, as social distancing requirements are causing event organizers around the world to cancel events through the summer and even into the fall. But the fair industry is resilient and many fair organizers have responded to forced cancellations with creative solutions to provide fans—and vendors—with alternative fair experiences. Below, we’ve compiled just a few of the outside-the-box ideas some fairs have come up with.
- The Ingham County Fairgrounds in Michigan opened its gates for a fair food drive-thru, which saw more than 700 cars come out to support the fairgrounds and vendors. Organizers say they went through 800 pounds of potatoes, 270 pounds of pretzel dough, 250 caramel apples, 25 pounds of hot dogs and more.
- The Williamson County Fair Board in Tennessee, with assistance provided by Friends of the Fair, recently purchased 1,503 gift cards from 37 locally owned businesses for Williamson County Fair Gives Back, an initiative to provide for area first responders while also supporting local businesses.
- The California State Fair, which typically draws tens of thousands each day was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But hundreds of fairgoers still got their chance to eat some classic fair foods by picking up dinner from a drive-thru, to-go meal event at Cal Expo. The family-style meal on offer for pickup included smoked barbecue brisket, country baked beans, macaroni and cheese and funnel cake fries.
- With the cancellation of the Marin County Fair in California, the county’s Department of Cultural Services has launched a Virtual Fair with weekly contests, activities and exhibits on the fair’s Facebook and Instagram pages. Fair staff members will also post links with how-to videos about juggling, baking, cheese making, animal husbandry, music lessons and more, featuring some of the fair’s favorite artists and partners.
- The Hancock County 4-H Fair in Indiana announced that attendance at the event will be limited to 4-H members and their families, event judges and volunteers. The same will go for the fair queen pageant, one of the fair’s hallmark events. Members of the public wanting to watch the events will be able to view the livestream of the events online.
- The North Carolina State Fairgrounds in Raleigh opened up a drive-thru for Memorial Day weekend. There was a line of cars, with visitors all waiting to get funnel cakes, fried Oreos, cotton candy and more.
- With the cancellation of the 200th Lewis County Fair in New York, fair organizers are launching The UnFair Lewis County Virtual Fair 2020 on Facebook. While the final schedule of events for the online fun have yet to be finalized, there are a number of ideas for behind-the-scenes videos, such as how to prepare cows and horses for the fair and adapting some fair favorites like the photography and talent competitions, the baby show and the cheese auction for online. Organizers are also working with the groups and businesses that make the real-life fair a success to help bring the fair alive online. For example, local restaurants that have specials only available at the fair will make them available for takeout.
- The annual Ventura County Fair Junior Livestock Auction in California is going virtual this year with a live auction and online bidding, allowing local youth to fulfill their dream of taking their animals to market and auction and to see the fruits of their labor.
- Lastly, fairgrounds throughout the nation are utilized as emergency response locations in times of crisis. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many fairgrounds are playing a vital role serving as medical test sites and temporary medical facilities. In times of uncertainty like now, one thing is certain – fairgrounds in communities around the nation stand ready to serve their communities. Let’s make sure they are around for years to come!
We are proud to be a part of the fair community and look forward to when we can all visit the fairgrounds again. Have your own #FAIRSTRONG story to tell? Want to share your favorite thing about the fair or a special fair memory? Please share in the comments below!