Though other counties have canceled fairs due to COVID-19 and some questions for event logistics still remain, the Washington County Fair will go on.
The Washington County Fair Board discussed plans for the fair and the status of events at its meeting Tuesday night. Many events will be held, some are canceled and others are tentatively planned to continue in accordance with Directed Health Measures and possible changes to those measures between now and the fair, which is July 24 through 29.
Fair Board President Jason Cloudt said the board will work on a schedule of events and have it released within the next couple of weeks. He said the schedule will become more and more concrete as the fair approaches and logistics for events or changes to DHMs come about.
One event that is canceled, however, is the headline concert featuring country singer Granger Smith and opening act, country singer Logan Mize. Single ticket purchases will be refunded by the end of the month, Cloudt said, and holiday package purchases will be honored this year and next year. A musical performance will still occur, however, with the Dylan Bloom Band.
The demolition derby will be postponed to a later date, and the carnival will be canceled.
The concert and the derby generally attract large crowds, and board members discussed holding those events under current Directed Health Measure rules would likely not be feasible.
On Monday, Gov. Pete Ricketts announced that 89 of Nebraska's 93 counties, including Washington County, would proceed from Phase 2 DHM to Phase 3 on June 22. The Phase 3 DHM includes rules for indoor and outdoor gatherings, such as for fairgrounds, arenas and auctions.
Indoor gatherings will be limited to 50 percent rated occupancy and outdoor gatherings will be limited to 75 percent rated occupancy, both not to exceed 10,000 people. Groups of people shall be no longer than eight people with six feet separation between groups. Parades, carnivals, midways, dances and street dances and beer gardens are prohibited.
Though beer gardens are prohibited, beer can be sold at the fair so long as it is not in tight or enclosed areas which are defined as "beer gardens."
Ricketts also announced what plans for Phase 4 DHM would look like, but no date was yet planned for when they would take effect.
Phase 4 limits indoor gatherings to 75 percent occupancy and outdoor gatherings can proceed with 100 percent occupancy. Six feet separation should occur between groups. Parades could be held in Phase 4, but as of now, the Washington County Fair Parade could not be held under Phase 3 rules unless everyone remained in their vehicles and did not line streets.
Events that will be held include 4-H livestock and static showings, though some changes to their normal operation will occur. As of the board's meeting and under plans created by Nebraska Extension, each animal group will arrive, show and leave on the respective day of the fair they are scheduled to show. The horse show during the fair is still planned, but the show day on July 18 is canceled.
Open class events are also planned to be held.
The livestock auction and the rodeo, which sees an average attendance that falls within the guidelines of Phase 3 DHM rules, are still planned to be held.
Other events, such as the volleyball tournament and barbecue contest are also planned to be held. The fair board also discussed options for events such as tractor pulls for children and adults and how they could be held under DHM rules, but did not finalize specific details for holding them.
Fair board members discussed throughout their four-hour long meeting that much uncertainty and logistical questions still need to be resolved.
While there is uncertainty on when Phase 4 will be put into place, the fair board will have to submit a plan on how it will adhere to the DHM to Three Rivers Public Health Department.
Cloudt said it will become more concrete which events will be held and how they will be held over the coming weeks.
"We don't know what we're going to see," he said.
The board's consensus, however, was that many of the events common to the Washington County Fair would still be held in some form or another.