Planners for the 2020 Delaware State Fair (July 23 -August 1, 2020) in Harrington, DE knew since March that this year’s fair was going to be different, that is, assuming that public health and elected officials in Delaware declare it’s safe for area residents to gather and traverse the fairgrounds later this summer.
One aspect of the fair recently determined to be impossible to include in this year’s event involves the ticketed concerts in the M&T Bank Grandstand and the Quillen Arena’s Q-Series.
Since the Fair started announcing performers and selling tickets back in November, the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) and the State of Delaware’s timely and decisive responses over the last 60 days to try to mitigate its serious public health threat are developments being closely watched by the Fair’s officers, 78 member Board of Directors and staff.
“While no one knows for sure where we will be in late July in terms of Governor Carney’s plans to re-open Delaware’s economy, one thing for sure is that the M&T Bank Grandstand and Quillen Arena Q-Series concert and show environment are not currently flexible enough to support the concept of social distancing as we understand it” stated Fair General Manager Bill DiMondi on Friday.
The very crowded conditions that go hand-in-hand with M&T Bank Grandstand and Quillen Arena concerts and shows are inconsistent with state mandates under Governor Carney’s current declaration of a state of emergency due to COVID-19 according to Fair President Ron Draper. He continued, “While the Board of Directors is disappointed that so many Delmarva residents will not be able to experience the first-rate lineup of talent and shows previously scheduled for the nights of Saturday June 13th (Quillen Arena) and Thursday July 23rd – Saturday August 1st in the M&T Bank Grandstand, the health and safety of our community is our highest priority.”
GM DiMondi advised that The Delaware State Fair intends to provide full refunds to all ticket buyers who purchased their tickets directly from the Fair. Refunds will follow the purchasers’ original method of payment and should be processed within the next 30 days. A more precise description of the refund process will be posted on the Fair’s website on Monday April 27, 2020. As an act of support for many of the Fair’s junior livestock exhibitors, ticket buyers will be given the opportunity to allot a portion of their refund to support the annual livestock auction, the proceeds of which are received by young exhibitors who sell their market animals at the conclusion of the livestock competition.
There is still hope among fair staff and a multitude of volunteers that this year’s 101st annual event, minus the grandstand shows, will still be held in some form or another as they continue to be remotely but actively engaged in the very detailed planning process.
Assistant General Manager Danny Aguilar explained that the entire staff and volunteer departmental leaders are working daily exploring and developing numerous means and methods that can be successfully implemented to thin out crowd size and permit appropriate social distancing behavior throughout the fairgrounds. Aguilar continued, “The concerts always brought big crowds to the fairgrounds between 5PM and 9PM each evening and with the elimination of the concerts and other M&T Bank Grandstand entertainment, crowd size can be better managed. The Fair is working to flatten its time of admission curve for each day.”
Aguilar explained that concepts being considered include patron selected gate admission time periods giving visitors the opportunity to plan their arrival time on the grounds earlier in the day when attendance counts are very low and making available online no-cost ticketing for on-grounds attractions like the circus so that capacity can be safely managed and individual show waiting lines can be minimized. If permitted to open, the Fair plans to actively managing the number of patrons permitted inside all of the buildings, barns or tents during operating hours just like the practices recently adopted by many supermarkets and big-box retailers. Plans also include live – streaming livestock shows and judging events to allow friends and relatives of junior livestock exhibitors the opportunity to “virtually” attend and enjoy these competitive events from their homes.
Fair Manager Bill DiMondi emphasized that this year’s Fair, if permitted to be held, will reflect significant operational adjustments aimed at meeting or exceeding evolving public health mandates. Providing an opportunity for a healthy physical distance between visitors will play a significant role in allowing the Fair to play its role in contributing to the healing of our community, emotionally and physically. DiMondi said, “Each annual Fair is a celebration of community in the most inclusive sense and a cherished tradition for many people in this area. Fair directors and staff will do their absolute best to present a Fair that meets the mandates of the public health officials and our Governor, John Carney.”