RALEIGH — Officials have canceled the North Carolina State Fair because of the uncertain conditions posed by the coronavirus pandemic, according to a news release.
The fair was scheduled to take place Oct. 15-25.
“I can think of a thousand places I’d rather be today than here delivering this news,” Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler said in the release. “The State Fair is a tradition we all look forward to each year.
"We waited as long as we could, hoping the numbers would take a turn and we’d be able to continue with our planning, but each day brought more challenges than solutions,” he said.
Fair officials still plan to hold the Junior Livestock Show and State Fair Horse Shows in October, Troxler said in the release. “By utilizing both the Graham Building and Expo Center and spreading the junior show out through all 11 days of what would have been the fair dates, we will be able to host a livestock show that allows for proper social distancing. These kids have worked so hard all year to show at the State Fair, and I’m glad we’ve found a safe way to make that happen.”
Officials said the decision to cancel the fair was based on:
• The safety and health of visitors, vendors, competitors and staff.
• Current COVID-19 statistics in the state.
• North Carolina’s pause in Phase Two of reopening thus limiting the size of gatherings.
• Contracts that cannot be canceled at the last minute without a financial impact on the N.C. State Fair and the vendor.
• The long-term financial health of the N.C. State Fair.
Fair officials determined holding a fair that abides by recommendations from federal and state health officials would not be possible.
“We looked at so many different factors,” fair manager Kent Yelverton said in the release. “From social distancing, face masks, temperature checks and capacity limits to the true minutia most wouldn’t think about until you are in the moment like social distancing on our shuttle buses, cleaning carnival equipment between riders, overlapping food lines and stringent cleaning schedules.
"There is no halfway when producing a fair. The people, the lights, the rides, the smells, the music … all of that contributes to an atmosphere that can only be felt during a fair,” he said.
Aug. 16 marks the 60-day window until the planned opening day of the 2020 fair and many fair contracts have a 60-day stipulation for cancellation with no penalty, according to the release.
The N.C. State Fair, which has operated since 1853, costs about $6.8 million annually to produce.
It is a self-supporting enterprise that has had 186 events canceled, resulting in an estimated $2.3 million loss in revenue since February, according to the release.
This year’s cancellation is not without precedent. From 1861-1868, the N.C. State Fair was canceled because of the Civil War and Reconstruction. In 1918, the N.C. State Fair was canceled because of World War I. In 1926 and 1927, there was no fair due to reorganization after the North Carolina Agricultural Society, the fair’s operating board at the time, was disbanded. The most recent cancellation was because of World War II from 1942-1945.
Officials are now planning for the 2021 N.C. State Fair, slated for Oct. 14-24.