Pam Chickering Wilson
JEFFERSON — Due to the evolving COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on community health and well-being, the 2020 Jefferson County Fair has been canceled.
Fair representatives said that they have made the safety of the Jefferson County Fair’s attendees, participants and community their highest priority in their decision-making process.
After seeking guidance from the Jefferson County Health Department, Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, Centers for Disease Control and Jefferson County administration, they said, it became clear that canceling the fair for this year would be the only safe choice.
“We want the fair to do its part to improve community health and safety and to reduce the cycle of infection,” Fair Park director Amy Listle said Monday. “Provided the COVID-19 situation improves to the point where it’s safe to hold mass gatherings, the Jefferson County Fair will return July 7-11, 2021.”
Listle said the impact of the fair’s cancellation will be felt far beyond the loss of the annual celebration.
“We are heartbroken for the small businesses, family farms, exhibitors, and community outreach groups who rely on the income and exposure the Jefferson County Fair brings them,” Listle said.
“We look forward to brighter, better days ahead, when we can gather again and continue to celebrate all that is exceptional about Jefferson County,” she said in her official announcement. “Until then, stay safe, be well and support each other. We’ll miss you.”
In the meantime, Jefferson County is planning a virtual fair that the public can view and participate in online at jcfairpark.com, Facebook and Instagram. Junior, open and senior class exhibitor registration is now open and entries are due June 30.
Weighing in on the news Monday afternoon, Kara Loyd, Jefferson County’s 4-H program coordinator, said that University of Wisconsin-Extension officials in Jefferson County understand the decision to cancel and appreciate the thoughtfulness that went into making this tough call.
“We in Extension will continue to support our partner in any way we can,” she said. “I recognize there will be disappointment among our youth members, adult volunteers and families who were looking forward to the in-person fair experience. For others, there may be a feeling of relief because there is not the need to make the decision whether or not to participate.”
“Understand that whatever you are experiencing right now, your feelings are valid,” she wrote in a message to 4-H families. “Others may feel differently and their feelings are valid as well. Please be kind to each other as we all work through this.”
Loyd noted that during the past year, 4-H youth have worked very hard on their projects and individual exhibits and were excited to showcase their work at the fair.
“This cancellation does not diminish their hard work, dedication, experience or passion,” she said. “We are proud of our members and volunteers.”
She said that the 4-H office is pleased that youth still will have a chance to exhibit their accomplishments in the virtual fair, noting that the Fair Park will be communicating with families in the near future about how to register their exhibits.
“We look forward to seeing our 4-Hers shine even in this new platform,” Loyd said.
“Four-H is not canceled,” she continued. “Our members will continue to develop life skills through education and connect with each other virtually. 4-H is still an outlet for learning, camaraderie, friendship and fun. This does not change, whether we are together virtually or in person. We will support club volunteers and members with virtual resources and will share online learning opportunities when available,” she said.
With the 2020 in-person fair erased from the calendar, fair personnel are moving full steam ahead to plan for the 2021 fair, Listle said.
Jon Pardi is slated to headline the main stage in 2021 with a new date of Saturday, July 10. Current ticketholders can hold on to their ticket and use it at the 2021 concert, or request a refund. The Ides of March, featuring Jim Peterik will headline the Main Stage on Friday, July 9, 2021.
All other non-fair events and group meetings scheduled on the fairgrounds throughout the year are being evaluated on a case-by-case basis, Listle said. She noted that they will be able to continue as long as proper protocols and procedures are in place.
For more information about refunds and how the cancellation impacts ticketholders, participants, vendors, stakeholders, and other events visit jcfairpark.com.
The Jefferson County cancellation comes at the same time as two other county fairs decided against going ahead with their annual celebrations.
The Waukesha and Washington county fairs and the Northern Wisconsin State Fair in Chippewa Falls also announced Monday that they would be cancelling their fairs for this year.
As of Monday, 24 of the 75 state-aided Wisconsin state, county and district fairs have been canceled, including Rock and Dane counties’ fairs.