Indiana fair officials make plans for 2021 with precautions in mind


JOHNSON COUNTY, Ind. – County and state fair officials are making plans to hold 2021 events while relying on guidance from health officials to keep fairgoers safe.

“This year, we’re full steam ahead,” said Johnson County Fair Board President Brian Young. “We’re wanting to move forward with it, as well as everybody, and we don’t see any reason why we can’t.”

Last year, many fair events had to be canceled as the COVID-19 pandemic was worsening across the state and nation. This year, with positivity rates dropping and vaccinations on the increase, Young expects a full slate of events when the Johnson County Fair starts July 18.

However, those plans will heavily rely on guidance from local and state health officials.

“I can still see, inside the buildings, having the masks and social distance when you can,” Young said. “And then the capacity, how many people you’re allowed to have inside the buildings.”

Similar cautious optimism is in place in other communities across central Indiana. The Hamilton County Fair is scheduled to begin July 15. Boone County will start their fair July 17, with Hendricks County starting one day later. Madison County officials expect to start the fair July 19. Marion County’s fair is set to begin on June 25.

“So we’ll be working with the department of public health, the Marion Count Department of Public Health, to make sure we’re meeting all their guidelines for social distancing and masks,” said Marion County Fair Board member Abdul-Hakim Shabazz. “Can we do 25%? Can we do 50? Can we do 75? The good thing about the fairgrounds is the fairgrounds for the most part is an outdoor event.”

“We are planning to have Grandstand Events, which include demolition derby presented by Pittsboro Jaycees, rodeo, garden tractor pull and ATV/truck drag races. Grounds Entertainment: 4-H competitions, high school cheerleading competition, food concessions, vendors, 5K run promoting Family Promise and amusement rides,” said Hendricks County 4-H director Steve Patterson. 

Social distancing and mask guidelines will be developed and in place for the fair, Patterson said.

“Hand sanitizer will be available at numerous locations throughout the grounds,” Patterson continued. “Safety guidelines will be developed as we continue to get information from the health departments.”

“We will have an in-person showcase of Hamilton County 4-H members projects,” said Hamilton County 4-H Youth Development Extension Educator Kathleen Bohde. “The details of how that showcase will happen are still being developed.”

Barring any major changes, Indiana State Fair spokesperson Sharon Smith said cautious optimism is driving plans to hold the Indiana State Fair starting on August 6.

As with many plans over the last year, Shabazz says the key is for fair planners to be flexible.

“Everything can change at the drop of a hat,” he said. “We could have another, like a fourth wave of a surge. We need to prepare for that.”

Even with some precautions and restrictions in place, Young says a busy fairground will be good news for the various organizations that rely on county fairs for annual fundraising efforts.

“It impacted a lot of people, just like it did the businesses and the restaurants and stuff around here,” Young said.

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