Last year COVID-19 wiped out the county fair schedule.
Now, those events are back on.
Amid predictions of a “close to normal” summer, organizers of fairs in Vermont and New Hampshire are cautiously optimistic that the Ferris wheels and fried dough, livestock and live entertainment, will return in 2021.
Dick Lawrence, President of the Caledonia County Fair, said continued vaccinations and increased public confidence should allow the fair to move forward, and hold a belated 175th-anniversary celebration.
The Caledonia County Fair is tentatively scheduled for Aug. 25 to 29.
“That doesn’t mean that things can’t change in a hurry. But we are planning to have a fair,” Lawrence said. “And if we can’t have a fair, we will have activities as close to the fair date as we can.”
According to Lawrence, entertainment has already been booked. Concession contracts are “ready to go,” and will be delivered once the fair status is confirmed. Other details are forthcoming, he said.
His confidence is backed by top elected leaders. President Joe Biden and Govs. Phil Scott of Vermont and Chris Sununu of New Hampshire have expressed hope that the summer could look more like it did in 2019.
Referring to the unpredictable nature of the pandemic, Lawrence expected “there will be flies in the ointment.”
He said Caledonia County Fair directors have prepared contingency plans in the event one-way pedestrian traffic, social distance, or other safety measures are required.
“We’ve discussed every possibility,” he said. “Hopefully, Lord willing, we’ll have an event, and people will be ready to come to an event.”
The Lancaster Fair, scheduled for Sept. 2 to 6, and the Orleans County Fair, moved to Sept. 8 to 12 (due to amusement scheduling issues), are also expected to proceed as planned.
Jason Sicard, President of the Orleans County Fair, and Ed Samson, President of the Lancaster Fair, said fairs and festivals will repair the community fabric, which was frayed by COVID separation and isolation.
“I think everybody in the community needs a chance to meet and greet, to spend time together and talk to each other. That’s what fairs have done for over a hundred years,” Sicard said.
Added Samson, “[The Lancaster Fair] draws people from far and wide. It’s like old home day”
The fairs will provide a much-needed boost to local economies, which were battered by COVID, and to the fair organizations, which went a year without income.
“We suffered significant losses and we had zero revenue [in 2020]. We couldn’t even have a horse show. Another year and a lot of fairs would no longer exist,” Samson said.
Lawrence echoed that concern.
He said the Caledonia County Fair faced $45,000 in yearly expenses to keep its Lyndonville fairgrounds insured, maintained, and served by water, sewer and electric utilities.
He also worried about volunteer enthusiasm if the fair were canceled for a second straight year. He noted that the Caledonia County Fair was put on by 36 unpaid volunteers.
“People that belong to an organization and are supportive of it, if there’s nothing to do, they lose their enthusiasm … and put in their time somewhere else,” he said.
However, Lawrence was confident in his team.
“We do it for the love of the fair. And we love working together,” he said, noting that while fair organizations elsewhere “are struggling to get a quorum to have a meeting, we’ve never had that problem.”
Representatives of the North Haverhill Fair and Bradford Fair could not be reached for comment.
According to event websites, the North Haverhill Fair is scheduled for July 28 to Aug. 1 and Bradford Fair is slated for July 15 to 18.