BY SHELBY NIEHAUS
Sadly, Fayette county fairgoers won’t have a place to be this July. The Fayette County Fair, for the first time in decades, has been cancelled.
A statement to the media, submitted by Fair Association member Kim Frutiger, reads as follows:
“The Fayette County Fair has been a long-standing tradition in our county bringing fun, food, entertainment, livestock, and 4H shows to families over the years. Therefore, it is with a heavy heart that we announce all events that were scheduled from July 11-17 will be canceled. Our main concern is the health and safety of those who participate and attend the annual county fair, so we must follow our state’s current Executive Order and ‘Restore Illinois’ plan. We appreciate the support of our community during this difficult time. The Fayette County Fair Association will continue to work throughout the upcoming year on improvements to bring the fair back next year. Thank you for your understanding and we look forward to seeing you at the fair in 2021.”
The St. Elmo Banner reached out to Fair Association secretary Audrey Prusa for comment shortly after. Prusa said that the Fair’s cancellation largely came down to the cancellation of in-person 4H shows (a press release posted to the Illinois Extension website reads “On June 1, Illinois Extension announced that in-person events through July 31 will be postponed or hosted online. 4-H general project and 4-H livestock shows and exhibitions scheduled through July 31 will be conducted online using the digital exhibition platform FairEntry”). Every fair meeting in Illinois during the month of July will be without its 4H competition–several others have called off their events due to either COVID-19, the 4H cancellation, or both. The Macoupin County Fair, which was slated to start today, announced its cancellation at the start of May; up in Ford county, the June 14-20 festivities were postponed into August, with at least one major concert cancelled. Other fair still have announced their intent to open to the public this year: the Coles County Fair called off its Queen pageant but not the July-August slate of events, and the mid-August Cumberland County Fair so far is on as planned.
While some of the above fairs are eager to continue no matter what, even in the absence of the 4H shows, the Fayette County Fair Association had some extra considerations that led them to cancel. The Association hasn’t received the state aid that would normally be earmarked for premiums paid to competition winners, which last year amounted to over $27,300 of money paid to competition winners. Additionally, “you can’t really ask small-town businesses to donate [to the fair] when [the businesses have] been closed,” said Prusa. What effect this year will have on the future financial status of the Fayette County Fair is so far unclear.
Furthermore, the Association is unsure of how this will affect 4H students. “I for sure see it being harder for them not being able to show their last year,” said a sympathetic Prusa. Prusa noted that any concessions for 4H students next year would have to come from the state level.
According to the Illinois Department of Agriculture’s website, cancelled fairs around the state are Boone, Brown, Carroll, Champaign (both the county fair and the Fisher Community fair), Christian, Clark (as the Martinsville Ag. Fair), Clinton, Douglas (as the Moultrie-Douglas County Fair) DuPage, Edwards, Fayette, Ford, Green, Hamilton (as the McLeansboro Fair), Henry, Iroquois, Knox, Livingston, Macon, Macoupin, Marshall-Putnam, Monroe, Montgomery, Moultrie (as both the Moultrie-Douglas County Fair and Moultrie-Sullivan Junior Fair), Ogle, Perry, Piatt, Pike (both the county fair and the Western Illinois Fair), Randolph, Richland, Schuyler, Vermillion, Washington, and Williamson. In addition to Ford, the Jo Daviess (Elizabeth Community Fair), Jasper, Mercer, and Sangamon county fairs were postponed as far back as October.
Cut faycofairA: The fairgrounds sits quiet in Brownstown about a month ahead of the originally-scheduled Fayette County Fair. Unfortunately, the grounds won’t get the same kind of use this summer, as the festivities have been called off.