Like many before it, the Central Wisconsin State fair on Monday was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. During a special meeting, the Central Wisconsin State Fair Board of Directors voted 9-2 to cancel this year's event scheduled for August 25-30.
Executive Director Dale Christiansen told the Board the issue of whether or not to hold the fair has consumed pretty much everything he has done for the past four months. "I have been in contact on a weekly basis with six other fairs that are similar in size to ours and are structured and put together the same way. Five of them have canceled. There are very few fairs left that have not called it yet or are downsizing dramatically."
Christiansen also told the board the latest COVID-19 case trends reported by Wood County Health Department Director Sue Kunferman show a strong increase in the last two weeks. "We have 15 additional cases that have been diagnosed this weekend, so we are at 84 positives with 43 of them being actively current. We are heading in the wrong direction. And she feels that it would be irresponsible for us to try to hold the fair. Many of the cases are younger people in their 20s and 30s, and people that are being diagnosed now are really sick."
Christiansen also said he was facing a lack of manpower, with 75-percent of last year's gate attendants already backing out. He also said social distancing and sanitizing and disinfecting bathrooms hourly would be impossible.
He said the fair just would not have looked or felt the same. "If we had moved forward, it would be cut down on attendance, cut down on vendors. It would not look anything like a fair that we're accustomed to. Number one, there would've been no grandstand entertainment, there would've been no carnival. Financially, it saves us from going in deeper. But because all of our income possibilities have been eliminated, it puts us in a position where we have to be very creative to move forward."
Christiansen also said, "We need to make a responsible decision. We need to set a good example."
With that, he recommended canceling the fair for 2020, and the majority of the board went along with that decision. Christiansen said all tickets purchased for this year's fair or grandstand acts will be honored next year. He said any refund requests must be initiated by August 7, or the tickets will be automatically rolled over for use at next year's fair.
More details can be found at centralwisconsinstatefair.com.
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