For the first time since World War II, the Ohio State Fair won’t go on as scheduled. The fair was set to start on July 29.
“It hurts me for cancelling, but it’s the right thing to do," said General Manager Virgil Strickler.
Strickler sounded dejected in announcing that after two months of internal discussion, state fair commissioners have decided to cancel the fair’s 12-day run, which brings in an average of 900,000 visitors.
“Let’s say at 50 percent even, that’s 450,000 people, around there. It’s just too scary. It’s too big of a mass gathering,” said Strickler.
Strickler said since the fairgrounds hosts around 200 events, the fair couldn’t be postponed, and vendors need to plan.
The fair has a budget of around $7 million, and a rainy day fund of a million dollars. Strickler said the state fair has made money for 18 years, after several years of money-losing fairs and financial problems for the Ohio Expositions Commission in the '90s.
Strickler said it’s up to counties whether they’ll hold junior fairs where kids usually compete to go on to the state fair. Fair boards in Franklin, Jackson and Warren Counties have announced they will hold modified junior fairs.
DeWine has said several times he's a huge fan of the fair. At his daily briefing he said he'd been notified this decision was coming, and that this is a "sad day" and is difficult for junior fair competitors and their families.
Strickler said the Expo Commission is now working on planning the 2021 Ohio State Fair, scheduled for July 28-August 8.
It’s the first time since 1945 that the fair has been cancelled. The fair was called off from 1942 to 1945 while the fairgrounds were used for the war effort.
DeWine opened last year's state fair and then had a surprise meeting with Amber Duffield, the mother of Tyler Jarrell, who died when a midway ride fell apart on the first day of the fair in 2017. DeWine had backed an increase in ride inspectors after that tragedy, which also resulted in a new state law requiring stronger fair ride standards and improved inspections.
Last year, DeWine had also appointed a task force to consider the future of the Ohio State Fairgrounds, which is just three miles away from downtown Columbus. The state is still negotiating with the Columbus Crew major league soccer team and the city of Columbus over land that the team and the city want to use for a training facility and a sports park. The Crew's Mapfre Stadium is adjacent to the fairgrounds.