Board to decide on scope of this year's county fair

Keith Gushard, The Meadville Tribune, Pa.
·3 min read

Apr. 8—This year's Crawford County Fair is set for August, but how big an event it will be isn't known yet, according to its board president.

"We have some tough decisions to make," Dean Maynard told county commissioners at their work session Wednesday. "We have decided we'll do something this year at the fair."

Pennsylvania's COVID-19 regulations are key in determining what can take place since fairs and concerts currently are limited to 50 percent of capacity, Maynard said.

The Fair Board's monthly meeting is April 15 at 6 p.m. at the fairgrounds to discuss the 2021 fair schedule. The fair is slated for Aug. 21 through 28 at the county fairgrounds off Dickson Road in West Mead Township, just east of Meadville.

Billed as the Pennsylvania's largest agricultural fair, the Crawford County Fair annually attracts tens of thousands during its eight-day run with livestock and agricultural exhibits, food, concerts and other entertainment.

The 2020 fair was to be its 75th anniversary, but the pandemic forced a cancellation of the traditional event.

There were 4-H and FFA alternative junior shows and exhibits two weekends in August, but they were closed to the general public due to the pandemic. The annual 4-H and FFA livestock auction was held online the Friday of what was to be the 2020 fair week.

"It will be bigger than last year, but we don't know if it will be a full fair yet," Maynard told the Tribune on Wednesday. The board also is working with the 75th anniversary committee about rescheduling some of its celebratory events for this year's edition.

The fair is in discussions with its ride operator, Powers & Thomas Midway Entertainment of Wilmington, North Carolina, and its booking agent for concerts and other entertainment, Variety Attractions of Zanesville, Ohio, to try to work out a plan for 2021, according to Maynard.

"We talk regularly," he said. "Pennsylvania is stricter than most states" regarding COVID-19 regulations.

It's the capacity restraint that has the fair in limbo with rides, concerts and other entertainment.

"They're not sure if they can permit their people to entertain in Pennsylvania with less than a full crowd — right now the grandstand (limit) is 50 percent," Maynard told the Tribune. "They don't want to come for less than half the grandstand being full."

The fair was to have three concert nights in 2020 — singer-ventriloquist Darci Lynne; country stars Brad Paisley and Jordan Davis; and Christian musicians Zach Williams, Tauren Wells and We Are Messengers. With the pandemic canceling the 2020 fair, the Fair Board was released from those grandstand concert contracts. The entertainers all agreed to return for the 2021 fair.

But now, the entertainers as well as Powers & Thomas must set their own tour schedules for 2021, Maynard said. It means they all want to know soon what the Crawford County Fair is going to do.

"They'd like to know by May 1, so we're really kind of in a time crunch right now," Maynard said of the upcoming April 15 meeting. "The board will be armed with lots of data and information and (have) decisions to make."

Keith Gushard can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at kgushard@meadvilletribune.com.