The 2020 Lebanon Area Fair (LAF) will not look like the fair Lebanon Countians are used to, but it will still occur in a way true to its essential purpose.
While many aspects of the fair, including track events, carnival rides, and concerts, will be on hiatus this year, the board will maintain a number of core fair traditions. The fair, which will be from July 25 to August 1, will consist of youth animal shows and indoor exhibits and drive-through food pick-up from 4-H and FFA fundraising barbecues and certain fair vendors.
All of these activities will be modified to accommodate social distancing and other CDC guidelines.
The fair board first announced that they were exploring their options for what they could do at the 2020 fair on May 20. They delayed making a final decision to ensure they were working with the latest information. The fair board confirmed again to the public on July 1 that they will be moving forward with their plans to have an altered 2020 fair.
“We’ve held off on committing to things as late as possible to wait for the latest guidance, not just in what we were allowed to do within the regulations, but what was safe to do,” said LAF spokesperson and board member Emily Summey. “That’s because the fair is staffed by volunteers of all ages and for many of them, it just isn’t a good idea to be out and … interfacing with other people.
“We just wanted to wait and see what the latest situation is going to be with the pandemic and with the regulations on how a business can operate and then adapt as best we could within those restrictions.”
At this year’s fair, there will not be any open animal or indoor exhibits. Instead, only youth will be able to participate in these exhibits, helping to preserve and promote youth agriculture in Lebanon County.
“This year has been a really difficult year for kids of all ages and we are committed to helping [them], especially our 4-H kids and FFA members, complete their projects,” said Summey. “For some of them, the fair is the terminal event of their 4-H project; the fair’s where it all ends.”
“They get evaluated on not only their animals stacked up against the other kids’ animals but also themselves in things like showmanship and how much time they put into their project.”
As in previous years, youth exhibitors will be able to enter in a variety of categories from archery, pet care and other 4-H projects to arts and crafts entries, along with all species that were previously shown at the fair.
“That’s our core purpose as a fair board and we felt that it was possible to do these things safely to give our kids a little bit of sense of normalcy this summer and keep the fair alive as much as we can,” said Summey.
To accommodate social distancing, exhibits and shows will be closed to the general public to keep the number of people at the fair below the limits set by the state.
The fair board plans on livestreaming shows on Facebook so that members of the public who want to watch their youth family and friends show their animals can still do so.
“For us, it’s important [to livestream the shows],” said Summey. “Your grandparents who might normally come watch the show, they’re not going to be there this year, so we are going to broadcast that so that the family can still watch in real-time and not just hear about the show afterward.”
Everyone on the grounds will be required to wear masks where social distancing is not possible and sign a liability waiver. There will be even more hand sanitizer and hand-washing stations throughout the barns than usual to encourage frequent hygiene as well.
Animals will be arriving in a staggered manner, with different species arriving either the night before or day of their show. Exhibitors will then take their animals home right after they have shown them.
By having the animals’ arrivals and departures staggered in this manner, only people involved in showing one particular species will be on the fairgrounds at one time, which will reduce the risk of exposure and allow the fair to comply with the state’s 250-person limit.
Read More: Animals aplenty at the Lebanon Area Fair
Thanks to the support of LAF sponsors, entry fees will be waived and full premiums will still be awarded to show winners. Exhibitors can enter online until July 10 and are encouraged to visit the LAF website to view the exhibiting schedule and the show catalog.
Aside from these changes, “the shows themselves, the format of them, should be pretty much business as usual,” said Siegel.
The ham and chicken barbecues held at the fair each year are a key fundraiser for 4-H and FFA members and allow them to hold activities on the fairgrounds throughout the year.
“[The barbecues are] very important in that they support 4-H and FFA activities being held on the fairgrounds year-round,” said Siegel. “All of the money that is raised there supports the facilities and makes it so that no local FFA chapters or 4-H clubs pay rent to use the facilities.
“It’s an important fundraiser and a very worthy fundraiser.”
The ham barbecue will take place Sunday, July 26 between 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and the chicken barbecue will be held Thursday, July 30 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., both in the Lebanon Expo Center parking lot.
In addition to either ham or chicken, each meal includes a baked potato, roll, applesauce, cookie and bottled water.
For the past two years, LAF has had a drive-through pickup option for the barbecues, in addition to indoor seating. However, this year the barbecues will take place in an entirely drive-through format.
All barbecue tickets, which cost $10 each will need to be pre-ordered, either from a 4-H or FFA member who is selling them or online, before the deadline of Saturday, July 11. Once people have ordered their tickets, they need to print out their receipt and bring it with them when they pick up their food at the fairgrounds.
The fair board will implement accommodations for the anticipated increase in traffic and have people there to direct cars so that the barbecue pick-up will be efficient and safe for customers.
“If there is a line that forms at a peak time, we will be able to stage cars and get people off the road and back on the road as soon as possible,” said Siegel.
Volunteers handing out the barbecue will wear personal protective equipment (PPE) and wash and sanitize their hands frequently to ensure the safety of both themselves and customers. The pick-up will also be taking place outside because that is where the risk of COVID-19 transmission is the lowest.
Fair food pickup
Each evening during fair week, there will be several food trucks on the fairgrounds that people can buy food from.
The logistics have not been finalized, but the fair board has a general idea of what it will look like. Their current plan is to have customers park their cars, get out and order food from the stand(s) they want food from and take it to-go.
There will likely be around six to eight food trucks there at a time, and they will vary depending on the vendors’ availability.
“Like many other businesses, they are struggling, so if there’s an event in another state they could go to, that would be more profitable for them probably than coming to Lebanon, so that would probably depend on every individual vendor,” said Summey.
The Penn Valley Shows truck, LAF’s traditional carnival food vendor, will be there the whole week to serve fair favorites such as funnel cakes, caramel apples and fresh lemonade. Lebanon County Dairy Promotion Milkshakes, Mr. Sticky’s Sticky Buns, Auntie Anne’s Pretzels, Robin’s Ice, Dynamic
Wings, and Firebox Street Grill are scheduled to be there as well.
“Based on the guidelines, we can’t really have a full event, but we can still give people the food that they crave,” said Siegel.
The fair board is still working on the schedule of what food vendors will be selling food each night. The completed schedule will be posted on the LAF website and Facebook page closer to the start of the fair.
The LAF is a non-profit organization, and the money they raise every year goes towards youth activities and educating the public about agriculture, along with supporting the Lebanon Expo Center, where the fair has been held for the last 50 years. While they are able to continue some of the usual fair activities this year, not having a full fair will definitely hurt the organization financially.
“This year, we’re not going to be making any money,” said Summey. “We’re going to do what we can and we’ve been supported by many generous sponsors who are helping to underwrite our premiums for the kids who are showing during their indoor exhibits.
“We’re trying to be really careful with the money that we spend so that we have the funds that we need to restart next year with hopefully a full fair.”
In addition to buying barbecue tickets and getting fair food, people in the community can support the LAF by donating online.
Overall, by having these few activities in a socially distant manner, the tradition of the LAF can continue while still keeping people safe.
“Maybe it’s the stubborn Dutchman in us all, but we’re going to go to great lengths to still comply with all guidelines and regulations … but at the same time trying to do as much as we possibly can and keep people safe,” said Siegel. “It’s sort of a refusal to quit.”
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