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Board Making Plans for September’s Belmont County Fair

Plans for the full Belmont County Fair are taking shape, but the fair board is undertaking considerable preparation and work to hold the beloved event this September during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

Many issues were debated Thursday evening at the fairgrounds, where board members and others held one of their frequent meetings. Board President Ed Campbell commented on the assistance normally provided by inmate work crews from the Belmont Correctional Institution.

The prison has been a major center of coronavirus infection in the past months, with nine coronavirus-related inmate deaths according to coronavirus.ohio.gov, and Campbell said he believed it unlikely inmates would be able to assist this year.

“We have not been in contact with them. We’ve been waiting to see,” Campbell said. “We really don’t know whether they’ll be able to come out or not.”

This will mean preparations will start earlier.

“As of right now, we’re putting together workdays with our board, so we’ll be out here on the weekends and through the evenings, picking up the slack,” he said. “It’s going to be a team effort. We’ve got a real good team to work with, so I don’t have any doubts we can pull it off.”

They will have to proceed without other accustomed assistance.

“Belco Works will not be available for us this year. That has got a lot to do with their transportation and the six-foot rule. We are reaching out to different cleaning services in the area to get quotes from them,” he said.

On the positive side, Campbell said funding is also available through the state to assist counties with junior fairs to hold their events. He said the fair board is awaiting a response from the state.

“It is a possibility that fairs may be getting something to help offset the cost to update the sanitation and cleaning,” he said. “We’ll be eligible for $50,000. We’re hoping we’ll be able to get all of it.”

Belmont County Commissioner J.P. Dutton attended the meeting and updated them on how the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act might assist the fair.

“We’ve been talking a lot to Belmont County Auditor Anthony Rocchio. A lot of those funds go through his office,” Dutton said, adding in a few weeks they will have a better idea how the funds may be spent. He said Rocchio may attend a future fair board meeting to further explain.

Campbell thanked Dutton and the commissioners for their support. The fair board is also working through details of incorporating pandemic safety into their operations.

“Our biggest thing is our social distancing, how we’re going to work that out,” Campbell said. “We have already contacted several different sanitation places and got updates on our wash stations.”

The board has also recently purchased 250 gallons of hand sanitizer to be placed in various stations throughout the fairgrounds.

“We’re working with the health department, trying to keep up with everything that they want us to do,” he said.

The pandemic may also affect the senior citizen days and the fair field day for schools. The fair board continues to reach out to acts and entertainment to ensure they are still available.

“I do believe there’s still some mixed feelings in the board, whether we’re doing the right thing, which is understandable with the pandemic going on,” Campbell said. “As far as the general public, we’ve had a lot of good responses. They’re ready to come out and they’re ready to do something.”

Talk then turned to the Junior Fair. The board decided to continue the Fair Royalty selection process. There will also likely be changes in animal showing practices among the youth to reduce the number of people in the barns.

“Instead of having a lot of the standing room, we will spread the chairs throughout the whole building,” he said. “Eliminate some of the seating in the bleacher area.”

“Our routing through the barns, it’ll all have to be worked one way. We’ll have to patrol that. Keep an eye on it so our traffic’s going one way in, one way out,” he said.

The issue was tabled so that board members could bring more ideas to the table in future meetings.

“Things are going pretty well, but we’re trying to keep it down to the minimum. … Less people in the show arena when they’re looking at cattle,” Junior Fair board member Harlee Yudasz of St. Clairsville said, stressing the importance of social distancing. She said many are anticipating the fair. “We’re doing it for the kids.”

“We just really are glad our senior fair board has decided to go on with letting us go on with planning a full fair. We understand that things may be different. We’re planning things as normal as possible, and we understand those plans have to change. We know there’s activities that the Junior Fair board takes care of, and those activities may not get to happen this year,” Junior Fair Board member Alyssa Betts from Bethesda said. “One of our concerns is fair field days. We don’t know what’s going on with schools and we don’t know if the schools would be comfortable letting kids come to the fair this year. … Our main thing is the livestock shows and the sale. That’s what we’re really looking forward to because the kids put so much work in.”

“I just really hope to see things as normal as can be,” Junior Fair Board member Sierra Betts from Bethesda said.

Anyone wishing to volunteer and provide support for the fair can call Ed Campbell at 740-359-4040 or Treasurer Malissa Campbell at 740-296-9542.

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