MALONE — The 170th edition of the Franklin County Fair has been canceled.
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Members of the Franklin County Agricultural Society Board of Directors agreed Thursday that the fair will not take place this year, as the region continues to grapple with the COVID-19 coronavirus, several directors confirmed Friday.
The board had planned to make a formal announcement about the decision on June 1, after they had had time to notify vendors and performers and to gear up for the anticipated flood of refund requests from advance ticket buyers, but word of the decision spread quickly on social media on Friday.
The board had discussed the decision for several weeks and decided in the end “there’s just too many reasons why we can’t,” said board President Greg Patterson.
Chief among those reasons was concern that holding the fair could contribute to a spike in the number of COVID-19 cases in the county, Patterson said. In addition to the midway workers and grandstand performers who would come to northern Franklin County from out of the area, the fair also draws many visitors from outside of the county, noted board member Andrea Dumas.
“We’re doing this to continue to keep our community safe,” Dumas said.
“The last thing we want is for the Franklin County Fair to jeopardize Franklin County,” Patterson said.
County Manager Donna Kissane said the decision to cancel the fair had to have been a difficult one but was the best one possible in the face of the global pandemic. She called the decision “sad” and “unfortunate” but said “I think they made a good public-safety decision.”
The entire North Country on Wednesday received state approval to slowly begin reopening its economy after meeting seven criteria, including drops in the number of infections and an increase in testing capacity. The region was approved to begin allowing certain businesses, including construction, manufacturing and curbside retail, to restart as of Friday.
Mass gatherings like the fair are not slated to be allowed to resume for at least another six weeks –– again assuming the region meets state criteria. Under a best-case scenario, such gatherings could begin at the end of June.
The fair was scheduled to be held Aug. 7 through 16.
The at-best five-week window would not allow fair organizers enough time to complete the work necessary to reopen, Dumas said.
Cancellation of the fair will be another blow to the area’s economy. The event annually provides a bump in sales tax revenues, which are falling far short of projections this year, as well as revenues for businesses and nonprofit groups.
The cancellation will also affect people in other ways, from the loss of a traditional summer diversion to the loss of opportunity for 4-H members to show off their work.
“It affects a lot of people in a lot of different ways,” Dumas said.
“The fair is something that the area needs,” Patterson said, adding that the risks posed this year were just to great to ignore.