By Daniel Larlham Jr.
Rumors of the Delaware State Fair’s demise in the summer of COVID-19 are not true.
The 101st fair will take place at the Harrington fairgrounds from July 23 to Aug. 1.
The fair on Wednesday got approval to open from the state after submitting a 70-page safety plan based on CDC guidelines, said Danny Aguilar, assistant general manager and director of marketing, in a Facebook LIve Wednesday.
If the fair couldn’t open safely, it wouldn’t, he said.
It will only close if the state sees a sharp rise in the number of COVID-19 infections, Aguilar said.
The concerts, parade and duck-calling contests are canceled because of worries over placing people so closely together it would be easier to be infected by the coronavirus, but most events remain.
Aguilar said he knows a lot of people are upset about the fair concerts, which included Hank Williams Jr., being canceled.
“Yes, it’s not going to be the same,” he said. “However, we will have more entertainment this year that we have in the past on the grounds.”
That will include an open air circus and a dog show as well as musical performances at Hertrick Arena, which will have benches spaced 6 feet apart for audience safety. Some livestock shows will be live-streamed.
The fair will reflect social distancing guidelines recommended by the state with efforts to “flatten the attendance curve,” said Aguilar.
Because attendance is normally highest from 5 p.m. to close, the fair is going to try to spread people out, bringing in more earlier in the days.
To encourage that, the fair is dropping admission fees from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. From 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., tickets will be half-priced. From 5 p.m. on, tickets will be full-priced at $9 for adults and $4.50 for youths.
Even with restrictions and changes in entertainment, Aguilar said the fair expects a similar number of patrons overall. Last year, about 328,000 attended the centennial event.
The fair plans to drop daily promotions, except for the Food Lion relief day on Monday, July 7. Senior day was canceled to protect more at-risk people, Aguilar said. However, he said, the Food Lion promotion, which allows people to bring in 5 cans of food to be admitted, is continuing because it has raised as much as 25,000 pounds of food for charity.
Masks will be suggested, but not required in the outdoor areas of the fair, where the rides and food are. This includes the livestock barn. Social distancing will be enforced in lines for food, admission and rides.
Masks will be required indoors, as well as in certain tents that don’t have outside airflow. Buildings will have designated entries and exits, and fair staff will be outside to remind people about masks and to count people so they don’t overload the 60 percent capacity recommended by the state.
The fair will be doing fever scans of its employees and carnival staff, but not patrons.
Aguilar said vendors and the food competitions will not be allowed to give away samples. Vendors have always been held to a high standard of cleanliness, he said, but will face changes on how much more often things must be cleaned. The entire fair will be deep-cleaned each night after it closes.
The fair has booked slightly fewer rides that are generally easier to clean and maintain, so they can be spaced out more than usual. New rides will be announced next week, Aguilar said.
New this year, he said, are large ADA-compliant restrooms, two private rooms for mothers who want to nurse their babies and an ADA adaptable shuttle that can take wheelchairs.
While the fair plans to do its part to keep patrons safe, Aguilar pointed out that it will expect customers to do their part, which means wearing a mask when necessary, using the many hand washing stations and adhering to the social distancing mandates.
For more specific details about daily schedules, go to https://delawarestatefair.com/