Ag Events Canceled, Postponed

COVID-19 Pandemic Forces Schedule Changes, Cancellations

Russ Quinn
By  Russ Quinn , DTN Staff Reporter
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Large crowds walk through the Minnesota State Fair in St. Paul. The 2020 state fairs in at least 15 states, including Minnesota, have been canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (DTN photo by Elaine Shein)

OMAHA (DTN) -- Spending a day at your state fair looking through the pens of livestock and eating your favorite fair food doesn't appear to be in the cards this summer for many. Several states across the country have cancelled their traditional state fairs due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The same applies to large farm shows and expos. As the dates of future events approach, it is likely many more ag-related events will be canceled or postponed.

NO STATE FAIR

Sixteen states have already canceled their state fairs, according to research done by DTN this week. Midwest states skipping their fairs this year include Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, Ohio and Wisconsin.

On Friday, June 12, Illinois Governor JB Pritzker issued an Executive Order cancelling the 2020 Illinois and Du Quoin State Fairs. The fairs are set to return in August 2021.

"This is the right choice based on guidance from the Illinois Department of Public Health and other experts; we have to prioritize keeping our people safe," Pritzker said in a news release. "Our state fairs are unmatched across the nation, and I look forward to gathering again to showcase the best of Illinois when it is safe to do so."

On Wednesday, June 10, the Iowa State Fair Board announced the cancellation of the 2020 Iowa State Fair due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The decision was a difficult one, according to a news release on the fair's website.

"The Iowa State Fair's top priority is protecting the health and safety of fairgoers, staff, volunteers, exhibitors and entertainers," the release said.

"Amid the pandemic, we couldn't, in good conscience, put on the fair when we knew access to emergency safety services at the fair could be limited, public transportation to and from the fair would not be possible, the constant sanitization of a seemingly infinite amount of high touch surfaces lacked feasibility and social distancing in lines to get your favorite fair food or walking the Grand Concourse would be difficult."

While the Iowa State Fair Board couldn't predict what the pandemic would look like in August, they did try to make educated decisions based on the situation today. Waiting any longer to decide if the fair would occur would have been "potentially damaging" to fair partners and planning, the release said.

The 2021 Iowa State Fair is set to return August 12-22, 2021, in Des Moines.

The Minnesota State Fair was canceled on May 22. Minnesota State Fair General Manager Jerry Hammer said in a release the decision to cancel was not a difficult decision but the only decision.

"The best thing we can all do right now is to help the world recover and heal," Hammer said. "In the meantime, your team of state fair pros is working hard to come back bigger, better, stronger and smarter in '21."

On June 7, the Indiana State Fair was canceled. The Indiana State Fair Commission and the Indiana State Fair Board said while the traditional Indiana State Fair will not take place, a modified State Fair 4-H Livestock Show with additional activities will be held on the State Fairgrounds in August.

"Unfortunately, key elements including vendors and partners of the Fair began falling off and so we pivoted, and found a way to still serve our communities," Brad Chambers, Indiana State Fair Commission Chairman, said in release.

OTHER FAIRS WAITING

While 16 states have already canceled state fairs, that number will most likely rise as other states decide the fates of their fairs as start dates get closer. Messages on many state fair websites state the organization or state governments are monitoring the situation and will make decisions in the near future.

The Kansas State Fair had a statement posted to their website on June 10 saying the fair is still scheduled to take place on Sept. 11-20 in Hutchinson.

"Our team remains confident that we will have a Fair in September -- an event that has spanned 107 uninterrupted years," Robin Jennison, Kansas State Fair General Manager, said in a statement.

While the fair is still a go for now, there are safety measures the fair is considering. Among them are one-way routes through buildings, encouraging customers to buy tickets online or at Dillons Food Stores and more hand sanitizer stations around the grounds.

FARM SHOWS SCRATCH

At least two outdoor farm shows, Minnesota Farmfest and Dakotafest, have already been canceled. IDEAg Group LLC, owned by American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), operates both shows and shuttered both on June 5.

Farmfest, held in Redwood County, Minnesota, for 38 years was set to happened Aug. 4-6. Dakotafest, scheduled for Aug. 18-20 in Mitchell, South Dakota, was to celebrate its 25th anniversary in 2020.

"We announce this decision with great disappointment but the well-being of our exhibitors, attendees, staff, volunteers and their families is paramount," Zippy Duvall, AFBF President said in a statement.

The DTN Ag Summit, set for Dec. 7-9 in Chicago, is currently scheduled as an in-person event. Details on speakers and topics, and updates on the event in general, will soon be available at https://www.dtn.com/… .

Here is a list of ag-related events canceled or delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic:

Alaska State Fair

California State Fair

Dakotafest Farm Show (SD)

FarmFest Farm Show (MN)

Illinois & Du Quoin State Fairs

Indiana State Fair

Iowa State Fair

Maine (Bangor) State Fair

Minnesota State Fair

Montana State Fair

New Jersey State Fair

Nevada State Fair (Delayed)

North Dakota State Fair

Ohio State Fair

Oregon State Fair

York State Fair (PA)

Tennessee State Fair

Wisconsin State Fair

World Dairy Expo (WI)

World Pork Expo (IA)

Russ Quinn can be reached at russ.quinn@dtn.com

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Russ Quinn