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State Fair attendance down, but Twiggs emerges as the star

Representatives of a dozen other state fairs have visited Harrington to see how the Delaware State Fair pulled off opening.

A giraffe named Twiggs is earning raves for the Delaware State Fair.

So are all the coronavirus measures taken to protect everyone at the Harrington fairgrounds. 

“It’s not a typical fair,” said Danny Aguilar, assistant general manager and director of marketing, on Wednesday, but those going are enjoying it. 

The 101st edition, which runs through Saturday, was reinvented for the age of COVID-19, with grandstand entertainment and attractions such as inflatable rides out. Other participants withdrew. 

Attendance is down, which fair officials expected. Aguilar doesn’t have figures yet but said it’s edging up “as people feel more comfortable” with how the fair is being run.

The fair has drawn some surprising out-of-state guests. It’s the first state fair this summer, he said, since so many other states canceled theirs. Representatives from 12 other state fairs have visited, he said, as have representatives of the San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo and the Florida State Fair, which are both planned for next February.

Boy petting pig at Delaware State Fair
The number of exhibited animals is down this year, but the ones who are there are getting some love.

Delaware modeled its operations on coronavirus arrangements at Disney and Universal theme parks and the Kentucky State Fair, still on for August, and the West Virginia State Fair, since canceled.

“Thank you Delaware State Fair for not giving up in the face of adversity,” Leah Cook wrote on the fair’s Facebook page, where traffic is up 287%. “You have done a great job.”

Aguilar said free admission from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. and the chance to beat the midsummer heat have drawn a number of visitors first thing in the morning. Attendance, which traditionally grew in the evening with people coming in for grandstand entertainment, is spread out through the day, he said.

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

“Our staff is on top of it,” he said. No incidents have been reported.

Free entertainment includes Circus Hollywood, Disc-Connected K9s (dogs performing to music), Hollywood Racing Pigs and Circus Hollywood camels, all with multiple shows each day.

Delaware State Fair ride
This year’s Delaware State Fair includes 44 rides. Photo by Bryan Shupe.

There are also 44 carnival rides, competitive exhibits in nine categories, various contests and traditional fair foods (deep-fried and not).

The number of exhibited animals has decreased, but “the exhibitors are very excited, and we’re excited that they’re here,” he said. 

“There’s an overwhelming sense of gratitude from vendors and concessionaires who have lost 50, 60, 70 days of work” from canceled events, he said. “That’s their livelihood.”

And don’t forget that giraffe., which can be fed by guests, particularly delighting kids and their parents.

“Twiggs is the best part of the fair,” Jackie Keel wrote on Facebook.

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