City officials have made no decision yet on going forward with the Carolina Classic Fair on Oct. 1, although marketing efforts for the annual fair are gearing up with billboards and social media set to steer people to the fair.
The city has tentative plans that call for the fair to go forward with masks mandatory inside buildings and strongly encouraged all over the fairgrounds.
Other planned safety measures include daily cleaning of rides and keeping family groups together on rides. Elsewhere, some well-known fairs are going forward, while others have been cancelled by communities concerned with a fair’s potential to spread disease.
Ben Rowe, an assistant Winston-Salem city manager, said Monday that Tuesday’s meeting of the Winston-Salem City Council’s general government committee will likely be the most important stop for fair discussions that have so far taken place with citizen planning groups who work with the fair.
On Monday, Rowe and Robert Mulhearn, the city’s venue and facility manager at the Winston-Salem Fairgrounds, brought city plans for operating the fair with COVID-19 safety measures in place to the city’s Public Assembly Facilities Commission.
The advisory commission’s job is to watch over city operations at the fairgrounds, the convention center, the Coliseum Annex and Bowman Gray Stadium. Last week, a similar presentation was made to the Fair Planning Commission, a similar advisory group that works only with the fair.
Some members of both commissions asked questions about the plans, especially the tricky area of how to go about enforcing the mask rules in cases where people don’t want to comply. But no one on the commissions has said the city should cancel the fair.
Cheryle Hartley, the director of the Carolina Classic Fair, told members of the Public Assembly Facilities Commission on Monday that she believes fair plans are on “the right track” to hold the fair this year after an absence in 2020 caused by the coronavirus pandemic:
“For the community, I think it would be good for this to happen this year,” she said. “We missed it.”
Mulhearn said that with the amount of signage planned at the fair it will be impossible for any visitor to not realize that they have to wear masks inside and are encouraged to wear them outdoors too.
Although Winston-Salem police officers will be present at the fair, Mulhearn said, they won’t be enforcing the mask mandates except as a last resort.
“The Winston-Salem Police Department has said we can cite someone for trespassing if we need to,” he said. “Hopefully, it will not come to that. The police won’t enforce it but they will assist in enforcing it if we need to.”
Basically, it appears that enforcement would come into play only if someone inside still refused to put on a mask after being asked to by the fair personnel.
Meanwhile, fair officials are talking up attractions such as the beer garden that will take place daily on the fairgrounds.
Billboards leading into town will advertise the event and direct people to the right exits to get to the fair, and on social media, officials said, bulletins will be posted giving people up-to-the-moment accounts of the events taking place at the fair at that time.
City officials said the fair has a $230,000 marketing budget.
The fair is scheduled to open Oct. 1 and run through Oct. 10. That’s assuming the fair passes muster with Tuesday’s general government committee and that officials learn nothing that would cause them to cancel the fair.
In addition to advocating masks, fair officials will post health screening questions at the entries and tell people to go away if they can’t pass the screening. Workers, volunteers and others involved in putting on the fair will also be provided with the health screening information.
The fair is also encouraging online and touch-free ticket purchases to minimize personal contact. Staff at the gates will also be using metal detectors and searching bags, which are limited to child and medical needs.
Indoors, the fair will have one-way foot traffic where possible and designated entry and exit doors.
The fair will have discounted wristbands for unlimited rides on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday. Officials hope that will distribute the attendance better among the fair days, and that touch-free ticket options will also make the fair safer.