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What should we do?

May 14, 2020

From the Board of the MN Federation of County Fairs:
The MFCF Board has been meeting regularly since middle of April to monitor available information related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

We have been in contact with:
• AJ Duerr and Cory Bennett, MFCF’s Lobbyists to follow bills that would extend fairs’ ability to use the 2020 county fair grants, if they are unable to hold an event in 2020.
• Commissioner of Agriculture Thom Petersen to gather information surrounding a variety of topics, including grant funding and livestock shows.
• University of MN Extension Staff, including Dr. Jennifer Skuza, Associate Dean and MN 4-H Director, to brainstorm options for kids and events affected by the no contact order issued by Extension, currently in place through June 30, 2020.
• MN Board of Animal Health representatives to discuss how the pandemic will affect events where animals are present.
• International Association of Fairs and Expositions (IAFE) staff to monitor the work being done in other states who are behind and in front of us on the COVID-19 curve.
• Carnivals, concessionaires, and other vendors who are concerned about health and safety, financial security and their ability to meet whatever social distancing requirements that may be in place when they come to your event.
• …and many of you, our Minnesota fairs, who are asking for guidance, information, and support during these uncertain times.

We will continue to meet and monitor all information that is available.

As members of our own local fair boards, we are seeking the same answers that you are as we consider whether to continue planning for our events. For fairs scheduled to be held in June, the deadline for making a “go or no-go” decision is staring us in the face. For events being held in August, the calendar, while perhaps a bit more kind, is still on our minds.

No one wants to cancel or postpone an event, whether it’s a high school graduation, a wedding, a class reunion….or a county fair. We are all looking for guidance. Perhaps we are even looking for someone to make the decision for us.

The IAFE has a variety of resources available for everyone, regardless of whether your fair is an IAFE member. However, if your fair is an IAFE member, additional resources are available through the members-only portion of their website.

The MFCF has compiled a list of fairs who have made decisions that alter their 2020 fair plans, and we have made that list available on the website. Fair boards who are looking
for guidance may find it useful to review the checklist included below, which has been
compiled from a variety of sources, including the IAFE:

Social distancing requirements
Can your fair, or certain events on your fair schedule, be provided while
following social distancing guidelines? This could include requirements
like limiting areas to small groups of people or a 6’ distance between

Can you sanitize common spaces and surfaces, such has carnival rides,
concessions counters, food stand tables, accessibility ramp railings, and
bathrooms frequently?
Can you increase the number of hand-wash stations or areas where hand
sanitizer is provided?

Will your fair volunteers be willing and able to provide their time in support
of your event?

4-H Exhibitors
What impact does Extension’s current no-contact order have on your
event --- on your event offerings? If your fair is held without 4-H, can
you/will you plan a separate event to allow kids to showcase their exhibits
and earn state fair trips?

Vendors / Commercial Booth Renters
Will your vendors be willing and able to come to your fair? In the case of
commercial booth rentals, are any of the businesses that have booths still
closed due to the stay-at-home order? Will they be limited by a loss of
revenues that they have experienced?

Carnival / Concessionaires
Have you communicated with your carnival and concessionaires? Has
their schedule been impacted by other cancellations? How will they need
to change their procedures and processes in order to keep their
employees safe?

County Fair Grants
If your fair is held, can you fulfill your contracts? Are the entertainers still
willing to attend your fair?
If you do not hold a fair in 2020, Legacy grant funds can be spent until
June 30, 2021; so, if your fair is in June, you can carry over the funds to
use next year. It is also possible to pay deposits acts that will perform at
fairs that take place in July or August of 2021. However, MFCF Lobbyist
AJ Duerr is working with legislators on including language in a bill that
would extend the opportunity to use those funds through June 30, 2022 to
allow additional flexibility for fairs.
AgriGrant funds do need to be spent this year, regardless of whether you
hold a fair.
You are encouraged to contact Lisa Sawyer with questions regarding the
county fair grant projects that you submitted as part of your application
earlier this year. You can work with Lisa to amend your application if your
plans change.

Is your insurance carrier willing to carry coverage for your event? Will any
special event coverage that you normally obtain cover a COVID-19-related
claim? Is supplemental coverage needed and/or available?

Sources of Revenues
Review your revenue sources. Will your sponsorship dollars be
impacted? What impact will COVID-19 have on revenues collected
through admission, parking, grandstand sales, or carnival sales?

Cost Comparison
What is the financial impact of:
1. Cancelation of the fair?
2. Having a poorly attended fair?
a. ….with a limited carnival?
b. ….without a carnival?
c. ….with grandstand events with limited capacity?
d. ….without grandstand events?
e. ….with a beer garden with limited capacity?
f. ….without a beer garden?

What if…
How would you handle the situation if a COVID-19 outbreak in your
community in the two weeks following your event?

COVID-19 Preparedness Plan
Businesses who are being allowed to re-open are being asked to have a
COVID-19 Preparedness Plan. It should be assumed that fairs will be
expected to have similar plans in place if events are held.

When do you need to make your final decision? When are you required to
commit funds to order supplies? When do you have down payments due
for contracts?

The MFCF Board will continue to meet, and each Director is available to answer your
questions. The MFCF purchased a Zoom license, and if you would like to schedule a
Zoom meeting with your District Director, that option is available to you.

As you continue planning your fair, be prepared to answer the previous questions
leading up to your event. Should you choose to cancel, we recommend that you have a
statement or press release prepared for your local newspaper, as well as your website
and Facebook page.

At the convention, it is common for us to hear that what works for one fair was not
successful at another. Making a decision on whether or not to hold your fair should be
based on your fair and your community, while considering recommendations, guidelines
and information available through federal and state agencies, including the Centers for
Disease Control, MN Department of Health, as well as your local public health agency.
There is no right answer, but certainly as each day passes, concerns about how to put
on a safe, successful fair are mounting.

Be safe, fair friends. And don’t hesitate to reach out with your questions.
MFCF Board of Directors

County Fair COVID-19 Guidance

County fair boards should consult state and local health departments about plans for hosting a fair if they believe they can hold events while adhering to state and federal social distancing guidelines. If fairs want to host livestock exhibitions virtually, they should consult the Board of Animal Health to make sure they’re able to meet all requirements.

General Guidance for County Fairs

  • Establish a timeline to announce if the fair will proceed or be cancelled.
  • Review contracts and evaluate if there are any penalties for cancellations.
  • Work with county and state public health officials early and often if your fair is planning to proceed.
  • Consider cancelling your 2020 fair if you cannot ensure the health of vendors and attendees.

Frequently Asked Questions

If we cancel our carnival/midway and other activities, can we still have a fair with livestock exhibitions?

Yes, if you meet all Minnesota Board of Animal Health requirements for livestock exhibitions. Contact the Board at 651-201-6826 or animalhealth@state.mn.us if you have questions about exhibitions.

Does cancelling our county fair have any impact on our Minnesota Department of Agriculture County Fair Grant?

Yes, most Fiscal Year 2020 County Fair Grant contracts have expiration dates in 2021. The AGRI portion of your grant can be extended so that contract is in effect for a full three years (i.e., early 2023). The Legacy Fund portion of your grant can be extended until June 30, 2022. If your fair is cancelled, you should contact Lisa Sawyer (651-201-6277 or lisa.sawyer@state.mn.us) to inquire about extending your contract or revising your budget and work plan.

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