SPENCER, Iowa (KCAU) – Agriculture is a big part of the summer fair season, but this week both the Iowa State Fair and the Plymouth County Fair announced they will not be opening this year because of COVID-19 concerns and many other Siouxland fairs have yet to decide their fates.
While the population of Spencer, Iowa is around 11,000 people, the Clay County Fair brings about 300,000 people to the area.
That’s a great economic boom for the community, but with COVID-19, locals said they have mixed feelings about this year.
“The Clay County Fair, it’s amazing. It brings in 300,000 people every year which is great, but during a time of a national pandemic, it’s just not the best time, I think, to be bringing in that many people to such a small community,” said Amanda Green, Clay County Fair volunteer.
Green said though she loves attending and volunteering for the Clay County Fair, this year she has already decided she will not be participating.
“This is just very unusual times and it’s just time to make those considerations and try to make exceptions that are difficult to make but still try to be mindful of everybody,” added Green.
“It’s a very difficult challenge to try to put on a fair in this COVID-19 world, I guess I’ll call it. You have to balance, obviously, fairgoers’ safety. You have to balance the safety of all of your volunteers and staff members and people that really put the fair on and, then on top of that, you take all of the moving parts of the fair,” said Jeremy Parsons, CEO of the Clay County Fair.
Parsons said he continues to keep an eye on the number of COVID-19 cases in the community.
“We are a few weeks away from needing to make that decision. Right now, we are planning full-speed ahead, but also looking at ways to incorporate all the different COVID-19 health measures,” said Parsons.
Parsons isn’t the only one keeping an eye on the numbers. With millions of dollars at risk, the fair’s 9-day run can make or break a business budget.
“It does play a pretty good role as a boost to early September revenue, especially with being closed in April, which most of downtown was for the entire month. It would be nice to see that revenue, but again, our safety is really, really concerning,” said Kevin Rohan, owner of Game State in Spencer, Iowa.
“We have the art barn out there. It’s a little area for a few of our artists to sell some of their goods, do demonstrations on what they do, and how they do it. It’s important just to get that message out that these artists are here. They’re working hard,” said Ryan Odor, executive director of Arts on Grand.
For now, the picture isn’t clear whether the gates will swing open for the fair’s 104th edition.
Parsons said it seems about half of the community is expressing reservations, while the other half said for the local economy and for people’s enjoyment, it needs to happen.
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