Planning for the Athens County Fair, set for August, will continue, the Athens County Fairboard announced following its May meeting. However, OhioHealth's annual fundraiser for the Southeast Ohio Food Bank will not be taking place this year, which is also traditionally held in August.
One major change to the returning fair is that no amusement rides will be present.
Both decisions — the cancellation of Bounty on the Bricks and of amusement rides at the fair — were made in an effort by organizers to keep any visitors or participants safe.
“This has been a hard decision and one not made lightly,” said Mark Seckinger, OhioHealth O’Bleness Hospital president, in a press release. “Still, our planning committee knew we had to act in the interest of public safety.”
The press release noted that Bounty on the Bricks is expected to be hosted again in 2021, and that the Sisters Health Foundation and the Osteopathic Heritage Foundations both made $30,000 contributions to the food bank earlier this spring rather than waiting until the summer event to disperse funds.
"It is a priority of ours to move forward with all livestock shows, and allow our 4-H kids to present their animals and other projects as planned," the Fair Board announced on its Facebook page. "Please be aware the schedules for all shows is still being worked out, but will be coming at a later date."
The post warned that entertainment could also be cancelled if safety details could not be ironed out. The Fair Board said it has been in touch with the Athens City-County Health Department, the Ohio Department of Agriculture and the Ohio Fair Managers Association.
"Many new details have come up in regards to distancing, mask wearing, hand sanitation, one way traffic in barns, and show classes just to name a few," the Athens Fair Board posted. "This 2020 Pandemic has made all of us make changes in our daily routines that we are not accustomed to, please be patient as we will get through this."
In late March, Athens County 4-H'ers were sent an email by the OSU Extension Office 4-H Youth Development Assistant Director Kirk Bloir.
"We know the spread of coronavirus also presents great uncertainty about upcoming 4-H events," Bloir wrote. "Will camps happen this summer? Will we be able to exhibit our projects at fairs? What about project judging? And the answer is that right now, we just don’t know. At this point, all 4-H activities, club meetings, events and programs must be held virtually or cancelled until May 15."
Further information on 4-H activities is yet to be published, and no one at the extension office could not be reached for comment. In March, when Bloir wrote the email, the situation was far less clear than it is even to this day. It was unknown whether a fair would be able to happen.
"4-H members and their families should consider a number of factors as they make their decisions to purchase 4-H market livestock projects," Bloir wrote. "Risks and rewards must be taken into account. For example, we encourage families to consider their overall available budget, space to care for livestock, availability of alternative markets, availability of local processing, family freezer space, and needs of local food pantries."