MANSFIELD -- The Richland County Fair is going to be -- and look -- a lot different in 2020.
Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, many of the things traditionally associated with the popular late summer event on Mansfield's north side simply will not be possible, fair board President Gary Blum said Wednesday.
There will be no grandstand entertainment, no rides or other ground entertainment during the fair, which will still run Aug. 9-15, with gates open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. each day.
But there will be a junior livestock show and sale at the fair, which began in 1849. There will be harness racing, although no one will be allowed in the grandstand. There will be a king and queen. And there will be a limited amount of food vendors at the fairgrounds, 750 N. Home Road.
Blum said Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine asked county fair boards to work with county health departments and develop a plan to stage at least a junior fair for young people. In this instance, he said, Richland Public Health has worked with the board to develop a plan, which the board approved Tuesday evening.
"Animals will only be on the grounds for a minimal amount of time. The kids will show their animals, and once shown, they will be leaving the grounds," Blum said. "Due to the social distancing issues, only a minimum number of spectators will be allowed to watch. Spectators will be limited to family members of the exhibitors.
"We won’t have open class exhibits, or showmanship. The Junior Fair will be able to have the still exhibits for the kids that don’t have animal projects, and the king and queen event will still be able to go on as planned. The llama and alpaca show, along with some 4H horse shows, will still be presented," Blum said.
"Several other (county) fairs are planning to move forward with a more conventional fair," Blum said. "Unfortunately, since this COVID-19 issue happened, we have had to cancel many events, which resulted in a significant loss of income. Loss of revenue, along with the social distancing, are the big reasons why we cannot proceed by having a larger event.
"We have a huge task ahead to give our youth an opportunity to shine and community support would be greatly appreciated. Our greatest asset is our youth and our community support," Blum said.
Blum credited RPH and county commissioners for their assistance.
"Both of these county departments understand the challenges we are up against, and have supported us throughout this process. The Senior Fair Board, OSU Extension office and Livestock Committee have been working to accomplish the task at hand.
The Junior Fair sale, usually spread over two days, will take place on Friday, Aug. 14, according to Blum. Harness racing, which provides a source of revenue to the fairgrounds, will go on Sunday and Monday, Aug. 9-10.
"The state gives a fairgrounds 'X' amount of dollars to cover the racing and the stuff that goes into it," Blum said. "If we do it, we get a minimal amounty of money. So it's beneficial to us if we do it."
He said fair officials are still working on a plan that may allow some degree of pari-mutual wagering on the races.
There will be food vendors, though Blum said, "We are probably not going to have a whole lot of them because we have cut back so far. People do like the fair food."
Blum said the fair board is encouraging people to purchase their tickets in advance. The fair office will be open Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and by appointment, beginning Monday, July 6.
Pre-sale tickets will be $5. Tickets at the gate during the fair will be $10, Blum said.
"It's kind of a barebones fair," Blum said. "The governor wanted us to least try to have a Junior Fair for the kids if possible. It's just tough for us financially to do much more.
"Community assistance and donations would help greatly impact our upcoming Junior Fair and preserve the opportunity for our future. We ask that everyone work together and be kind, positive and respectful. Help Richland County Fair showcase our youth through these trying times," Blum said.