Two signature summer fairs in Columbia County have joined the list of cancellations caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The boards that oversee the Columbia County Fair and the Lodi Agricultural Fair each announced Wednesday the cancellation of their 2020 events, citing health and safety concerns as well as the difficult logistics that would be required to maintain social distancing and sanitation practices.
For Terry Quam, Lodi Agricultural Fair Board president, deciding to cancel made it the “saddest day of my life on the board of directors,” on which he’s served for 30 years.
“Sitting on the board, the biggest fear that anybody had was someone would contract something and get sick,” Quam said. “And I understand that there’s some opposite feelings out there that we’re overreacting, but again, as one board member put it last night, he would be devastated if he learned someone got sick from coming to the fair.”
According to a news release, the Columbia County Fair Board consulted with the city of Portage and the Columbia County Health and Human Services Department on the decision.
“After consideration of the health, financial and societal issues surrounding the COVID-19 global pandemic, it is with an extreme deal of sadness and regret that the difficult decision to cancel the Columbia County Fair scheduled for July 22-26, 2020 was made,” the release said.
Both fairs have been held annually for more than 150 years to showcase agriculture and allow exhibitors to share their livestock, art and other specialties. The county event started in the 1850s, according to the release.
The Lodi Agricultural Fair has occurred every year since the 1860s. Quam said he doesn’t think it’s ever been cancelled — not even when the fairgrounds served as a camp for German prisoners of war during World War II.
Usually a four-day event that draws an estimated 10,000 visitors and requires 200 to 300 volunteers, the Lodi fair had been scheduled for July 9-12. Its board consulted with county health officials and fair associations before making the decision, according to a news release.
Quam said he will be meeting with Lodi city and school district officials to discuss what they could potentially do this fall to make up for the loss of the fair. Though cancelling saddened him, he said board members are proud of the Lodi Agricultural Fair and want to protect its legacy as a quality event.
“We were so worried about putting on a poor show that we would rather wait a year, come back, regroup and put on the best show possible,” Quam said. “Health and quality of show was foremost at mind.”
The Columbia County Fair Board also noted the decision to cancel was one of their most difficult to make.
“The cancellation of the fair brings a great deal of disappointment to those people who plan, attend, exhibit, participate and support the fair,” the Columbia County Fair release stated. “However the safety and well-being of all involved are of utmost importance.”
Limiting the number of people at the fair and keeping it sanitized and safe posed “huge” difficulties, as did potential liability, the release said.
They each plan to resume their traditions next year, with the 155th Lodi Agricultural Fair planned for July 8-11, 2021, and the 2021 Columbia County Fair scheduled for July 21-25, 2021.