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Full speed ahead: With a few changes, State Fair opened Thursday

Admission prices have changed. It’s free 8-11 a.m., half-price 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and full price after 4 p.m.

The 101st Delaware State Fair promises “homegrown summer fun” from through Aug. 1.

Many favorites are back in Harrington, but, because of COVID-19, many are not, such as grandstand entertainment, inflatable rides, local institutions known for their fair fare and tasting contest food.

“We’ve been working hard to safely deliver the fair,” Danny Aguilar, assistant general manager and director of marketing, said on Monday. The fair’s website delineates wide-ranging precautions.

“Exposure to Covid-19 is an inherent risk in any public location where people are present; we cannot guarantee you will not be exposed during your visit,” the fair forces everyone coming to its site to read first.

The fair requires people to wear facecoverings and also requires people to stay home if they meet one of five criteria: Within past 14 days they have been tested positive for coronavirus; deemed presumptively positive; sought testing but have not yet received results; been told they have been exposed to the virus; or experienced symptoms associated with the virus. 

Dr. Karyl Rattay, director of the Delaware Division of the Public Health, said Tuesday that the fair has been allowed to open when other events were not because it can spread people out and can control who comes in and who does not.

Events that have parades where people are shoulder to shoulder, or have no set entrance or exit points cannot do the same thing, she said. The Fair also lasts longer so people are spread out over 10 days rather than only a few hours on one day.

The Fair worked closely with her division and the Department of Agriculture to come up with a plan, she said, canceling some events and regulating the number of people who can come in.

To ease financial pressures brought on by the pandemic and to encourage fairgoers to spread attendance out throughout the day, admission prices have changed. It’s free 8-11 a.m., half-price 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and full price after 4 p.m.

All M&T Bank Grandstand concerts and shows are canceled. The fair promises full refunds to people who purchased tickets through the fair itself. People who bought tickets through resellers need to reach out to them for refunds, the fair says.

Free entertainment includes Circus Hollywood (usually at noon, 5 p.m. and 8 p.m.), Disc-Connected K9s (dogs performing to music, usually with four shows a day). Hollywood Racing Pigs (usually at 1:30, 4 and 7:30 p.m.) and Circus Hollywood camels (usually at 3 and 6:30 p.m.)

Fair food will be available, with some concessions to COVID-19 guidelines.
Fair food will be available, with some concessions to COVID-19 guidelines.

The carnival opens most days at 1 p.m. There will be 44 rides, he said, down about five to allow for more social distancing. Inflatable rides, aka bounce houses, are out because of extra cleaning needs.

“All the traditional fare, all that enjoyable summer food will be there,” said Aguilar, noting he’s a fan of deep-fried Snickers.

But some local institutions, such as the Delaware State Grange, with its chicken platters, and the Delaware Farm Bureau, with its hand-dipped milkshakes, skipped this year, the Delaware State News reported. 

Livestock shows, weigh-ins and barn meetings have been modified so only one species is in the barn at any time. That covers beef cattle, dairy cattle, goats, horses, sheep and swine. The Junior Livestock Auction will be virtual. The Livestock Extravaganza and Pretty Animal Contest are cancelled. 

Competitive exhibits are planned in nine categories: 4-H, FFA, Arts & Crafts, Children, Culinary; Farm, Fruit & Apiary; Flower; Garden Vegetable; and Needlework.

About 20 contests are planned, with sampling out for the culinary contests.

The fair has set multiple rules and guidelines for masks, social distancing, cleanliness and contact.

Face coverings are required almost everywhere for almost everyone, except for when people are sitting, eating and keeping socially distant. The fair “reserves the right” to remove people without masks, its website says.

Face coverings are strongly recommended for children ages 3-12. Children 2 and younger “must not wear a face covering, due to the risk of suffocation.”

Capacity in indoor exhibit and shopping areas will be cut to allow for social distancing. Markers will establish social distancing at entry, ride, restroom and dining queues, and Distancing Ambassadors will monitor the fairgrounds. Seating areas will be reconfigured to encourage social distancing.

Hand-washing stations and hand sanitizer will be available throughout. Restrooms and other high-touch areas will be cleaned more.

Cutlery, napkins, condiments and toppings will be served upon request, rather than self-serve.

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