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NC State Fair Canceled Due To Safety And Health Concerns

Photo: Ferris wheel at the N.C. State Fair
Flickr, Kevin Oliver

The North Carolina State Fair has been canceled.

Organizers of the annual fair in Raleigh announced in a statement Wednesday morning that the decision to cancel the 2020 event was based on the safety and health of visitors, vendors, competitors and staff, current COVID-19 statistics in the state, North Carolina’s pause in Phase Two of reopening, contracts and the long-term financial health of the fair.

“I can think of a thousand places I’d rather be today than here delivering this news,” Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler said in a statement. “The State Fair is a tradition we all look forward to each year. It’s a vital economic engine for local non-profits, community groups, small businesses and individuals. It’s a time for family and friends to come together to celebrate everything that makes North Carolina such a great place to live. We waited as long as we could, hoping the numbers would take a turn and we’d be able to continue with our planning, but each day brought more challenges than solutions.”

The first North Carolina State Fair was held in 1853. This is the first time it has been canceled since 1945, then due to World War II. It has occurred each consecutive year since 1946.

This year’s fair was set for Oct. 15-25.

Because the fair has many contracts in-place that have a 60-day stipulation for cancelation with no penalty, fair organizers had to make a decision on whether or not to hold it before Aug. 16. Canceling the fair now allows some expenses to be mitigated. The N.C. State Fair costs around $6.8 million annually to produce, organizers said. Since February, it has lost an estimated $2.3 million in revenue.

“We looked at so many different factors,” Fair Manager Kent Yelverton said in a statement. “From social distancing, face masks, temperature checks and capacity limits to the true minutia most wouldn’t think about until you are in the moment like social distancing on our shuttle buses, cleaning carnival equipment between riders, overlapping food lines and stringent cleaning schedules. To offer anything less than what fairgoers have come to know and love would be a disservice to our community and to us. There is no halfway when producing a fair. The people, the lights, the rides, the smells, the music – all of that contributes to an atmosphere that can only be felt during a fair.”

Troxler said that the fair will still hold its Junior Livestock Show and State Fair Horse Shows in October. Organizers will spread the show out through all 11 days in two buildings to ensure social distancing.

“These kids have worked so hard all year to show at the State Fair, and I’m glad we’ve found a safe way to make that happen,” Troxler said.

“I can assure you we will be hard at work planning a great 2021 State Fair,” he added.

Mitchell Northam is a Digital Producer for WUNC. His past work has been featured at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, SB Nation, the Orlando Sentinel and the Associated Press. He is a graduate of Salisbury University and is also a voter in the AP Top 25 poll for women's college basketball.
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