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Ohio's County Fairs Are Reopening, With Some Changes

The Greene County Fairgrounds in Xenia.
Chris Welter
The Greene County Fairgrounds in Xenia.

Ohio Governor Mike Dewine announced this week that county fairs are now permitted to re-open, so long as Department of Health safety standards are met. Fair organizers say these county fairs are important — for both the economy and the sense of community in rural areas.

“Let me give it to you this way: Columbus has the Ohio Stadium and they got the Palace Theater and you got all kinds of social venues and you’ve got all kinds of restaurants and social activities," says Jim Buchy, the chairman of Governor Mike Dewine’s COVID-19 Fair Advisory Group. "Well, in the rural areas, the three major social fabric areas are schools, churches and the fairs.”

Buchy says the state’s Junior Fairs are particularly important this year, with kids missing out on springtime traditions like prom, school plays, and sports. The Junior Fairs feature local kids’ projects — like the livestock animals they have raised, or the clothes that they have made.

The Junior Fairs are also important economically for local rural families. The animals shown at county fairs are usually sold after the competition — the higher the place in the competition, the higher the selling price. With the pandemic-related disruptions to the food chain this year hurting family farmers, Buchy says they can use all the economic help they can get.

Environmental reporter Chris Welter is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.