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Thursday, May 13, 2021

Fairs Making Plans:
GLOW region Fairs aim to return,
await state guidance

County fairs in Genesee, Orleans and Wyoming
aim to be back this summer


PIKE — It all comes down to state guidelines. The details haven’t been finalized, but county fairs in the GLOW region continue to plan for their return this summer. Exactly how they look — and what they’ll offer — will largely depend on rules they’re still awaiting from Albany. But as for now, they aim to be back.

Wyoming County Fair officials confirmed Tuesday in a Facebook post that planning’s underway for the much-beloved August event.
“We know based on current guidelines most activities will look differently than in years past,” the officials said. “However, we feel it is important for all involved to move forward with a fair in 2021, even if it means altering fair operations to ensure the safety and well-being of fair participants, visitors, and employees.”
The fair’s set for Aug. 14 to 21. Officials are working with a group including the county Health Department, the Town of Pike, the Pike Fire Department and the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Wyoming County. More information will be announced when plans are finalized, they said.

Wyoming County Fair, of course, is a beloved summer tradition whose popularity extends well beyond the county’s boundaries. It draws thousands of people and has garnered a popular reputation as New York’s best small fair, offering a wide variety of 4-H judging, parades, rides, food, entertainment, a livestock auction and much more.

Similar planning is underway for the Orleans County 4-H Fair, set for July 26 to 31.The fair is currently set to include its traditional livestock shows, kids exhibits and dinners, along with the annual livestock auction. Other popular attractions, such as the midway and rides, will be decided once state guidance is received.

“We’re in a limbo right now,” said Executive Director Robert Batt of the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Orleans County. “We’re committed to the minimum, but hoping for the maximum ... As soon as the state drops guidance and we can talk to our health department about knowing what we’ll need to do.” But vendors are expressing interest and preparations are already underway on the midway.

As of May 5, plans for the Genesee County Fair called for the Draft Horse Show to take place on July 23, with the fair itself running July 24 to 31. The announcement came as plans remain touch-and-go for fairs statewide — the lack of state guidance being a key issue amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Elsewhere, the Chautauqua County Fair, which had been set to begin July 18, was canceled last week. Gov. Andrew Cuomo addressed the pending guidance during an appearance Wednesday in Buffalo. As the COVID-19 positivity rate decreases, planners have been increasing the allowable capacity. Those factors — public safety and making a profit — remain practical concerns, including for the expansive highly-popular Erie County Fair.

“It’s not dragging your feet,” Cuomo said. “It’s that the situation changes so quickly we want to open at the greatest capacity and at a capacity that makes it economic. If you can’t bring in enough people, then the vendors don’t want to show up. “And that has been a problem,” he said. “ We could not say to the vendors we can get you ‘X’ percent capacity and the vendors have said to us if we cant get ‘X’ percent we’re not coming. As our positivity rate has come down we have been increasing the capacity.” Increasing capacity makes an attraction more economically viable, he said.

“That’s true in baseball that’s true in music theaters that’s true for Broadway,” he said. “If you can’t increase the capacity to their economic threshold, it doesn’t work. Up until now for many venues we’ve been below the economic threshold they have said, “If I can only have 25% people I can’t open. I don’t have enough people to make it economically viable.”

Given current COVID-19 positivity and death rates, Cuomo said, he believes the state can make opening economically viable for any venue, including fairs. Vaccination will be another key.

“If I’m a stadium owner, or I’m an arena owner, or if I’m a county fair, I say, ‘Look, I can get more people if I increase the percentage of vaccinated.” 

If 100 percent of the people at a venue are vaccinated, it basically has full capacity, he said, using baseball as an example.

“Well, we only have 50% of the people vaccinated right now and you don’t want to say only vaccinated people go to the gam. But as that vaccine number goes up and you have a larger vaccinated population you’re going to get closer and closer to 100% (capacity).”

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