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Patrons of the Lebanon Area Fair will have to wait a little longer to find out if the annual event will fall victim to the coronavirus this year.
The fair, which has been held each year on the fairgrounds off Rocherty Road since 1970, is scheduled to begin July 25 this year.
But concerns about the spread of COVID-19 means the fair—along with many other events that bring people together in groups—might be shelved until 2021.
“We intend to make a decision by June 1,” spokeswoman Emily Summey, who serves on the fair board, told LebTown in an email Monday afternoon.
Much of the state remains under a quarantine ordered in March by Gov. Tom Wolf, although some Lebanon County officials have signaled their intention to reopen county businesses and lift some quarantine restrictions ahead of schedule. What that means for events like the fair—and how it will impact on the county’s caseload—remains to be seen.
Lebanon County was tracking 815 cases of the novel coronavirus as of May 11, according to current Pennsylvania Department of Health data. The Department of Health has reported 16 deaths from the virus in Lebanon County as of May 11, although the county says there have been only 12.
County fair officials have been fairly quiet on the matter.
Fair chairman Daniel Siegel, in an April 28 message on the fair’s Facebook page, acknowledged that the board doesn’t have all the answers yet.
“We have begun to receive numerous inquiries regarding the likelihood of having a 2020 Fair,” he wrote. “Our official status as of right now is that the Lebanon Area Fair is still scheduled.”
However, he said, organizers anticipate that, if a fair is held as planned, “it would most certainly still be affected by COVID-19 and the regulatory measures and best practices in place at the time to mitigate the risk of spread.”
It is, Siegel said, “very hard to predict the exact set of circumstances that will exist on July 25, the hopeful first day of our fair.”
If the fair is cancelled, he noted, sponsors “would be given a number of options … up to and including a full refund.” Vendors would have their site deposits refunded or credited toward a future year, he added.
Siegel told exhibitors that he “can give no definitive assurances” that a fair will be held this year, and he warned that any expenditures made by exhibitors “are done at your own risk.”
He stressed, however, that exhibitors who are completing a 4-H or FFA project, “whether it is a booth exhibit, a quilt, or a show animal,” should consider themselves successful even without showing at the fair.
“Think about how much you learn by completing such a project—both about a particular skill and about life in general,” Siegel wrote. “We encourage you to not suspend your involvement in a 4-H or FFA project simply because of the possibility that we may not be able to have a Fair. This year may not be the year to spend a large sum of money on a prizewinning show animal, but you can still learn a lot from your project!”
The fair, according to its website, was founded in 1957 and, prior to 1970, was held at various locations. This year, Siegel remarked, would be the fair’s 50th anniversary at the fairgrounds.
“We are proud of such a milestone and rich history,” he said, noting the board has a duty to carry the fair forward “and leave it better and more successful” than it was in years past.
“If a difficult decision must be made, we will not do it out of haste or without having the best information available to us at the time,” Siegel said on Facebook. “We anticipate needing to make a decision around the beginning of June because of the significant commitments and outlays that would be required at that point.
“We will do our best to keep everyone updated as we navigate these uncertain times.”
Check out our photo stories from last year’s fair
Read all of LebTown’s COVID-19 coverage here.
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Full Disclosure: The Lebanon Area Fair was previously an advertiser on LebTown. LebTown does not make editorial decisions based on advertising relationships and advertisers do not receive special editorial treatment. Learn more about advertising with LebTown here.