Thursday night, members of the Huntingdon County Agricultural Association, otherwise known as the fair board, made the heartbreaking decision to cancel the 2020 Huntingdon County Fair.
The fair was scheduled to take place between Sunday, Aug. 9, and Saturday, Aug. 15.
This decision follows the cancellation of other fairs throughout the region, including the Centre County Grange Fair and Encampment, the Bedford County Fair, the Fulton County Fair, the Shippensburg Fair and many others.
This is the first time the fair has been canceled since 1944 and 1945 due to World War II.
Additionally, according to information from the late historian Robert Cree in his book, “Bigger and Better Huntingdon County Fair,” the fair was also canceled in October 1918 due to the influenza pandemic that swept the nation.
In Mr. Cree’s book, he wrote, “during the summer and fall of 1918, all public gatherings were prohibited by the state Board of Heath, and the association (the fair board) was forced to cancel the fair for that year.”
A full list of cancelations of fairs across the state can be found at the Pennsylvania State Association of County Fair’s website at www.pafairs.org.
Mark Miller, president of the Huntingdon County Agricultural Association, explained why fair board members made the decision to cancel the fair this year.
“The biggest thing is not knowing exactly what the regulations and guidelines would be,” he said.
For example, assuming that Huntingdon County enters the green phase by the time the fair was scheduled the first full week of August, crowds are limited to 250 people and under.
According to the governor’s guidance for entering the green phase, “any gathering for a planned or spontaneous event of greater than 250 individuals is prohibited. This includes, but is not limited to, a concert, festival, fair, conference, sporting event, movie showing or theater performance.”
The fair draws about 65,000 people during the week, which means about 9,000-10,000 pass through the fair gates each day of the fair.
“We have such a large participation at the fair,” said Miller. “Our exhibitor numbers alone are so high, to try to limit people would be very difficult.”
Youth exhibitors take up a large portion of the largest outdoor agricultural exposition in the state.
This is why the Huntingdon County Junior Livestock Committee is working hard to find ways to help 4-H and FFA youth market their animals for sale, as they will not be sold at this year’s Junior Livestock Sale, which typically takes place Friday during fair week.
The Huntingdon County Junior Livestock Committee, along with the livestock superintendents of the Huntingdon County Fair Stephanie McGargle, Erica Mowrer and John Mills, as well as committee president Chris Wilson are working on those plans.
“The Huntingdon County Junior Livestock Committee will be evaluating options for youth to market their animals in the upcoming weeks,” said the group in a prepared statement. “We are working closely with recommendations from the county and the state 4-H office, as well as Huntingdon County FFA advisers. We’re also complying with state and federal requirements to present options and education to our youth on how they can market their animals.”
As of right now, the county is just now entering the governor’s yellow phase of the reopening of the state, which limits gatherings to 25 people or less, so there are no guarantees the county will be in the green phase by early August.
However, at the forefront of the board’s mind was safety of the community.
“We did this for the safety of our volunteers, our vendors, our exhibitors and our community,” said Miller. “That’s the most important thing — to try to keep everyone safe.”
This decision was not an easy one for the fair board.
“This was a very difficult decision for the board,” said Miller. “That’s because a lot of our board members grew up showing at the fair, and they have kids and grandkids who currently show at the fair.”
Miller, however, said he, as well as the rest of the fair board, sincerely appreciates the support from the community.
“We do appreciate all of the support we get from the community,” he said. “We would like to thank everyone for their support and their continued support.”