FARMINGTON – The Franklin County Agricultural Society has decided to cancel this year’s Farmington Fair for the first time in decades, citing safety and financial issues relating to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Farmington’s event is the latest of more than two dozen annual fairs and festivals that have been cancelled over the past several weeks, according to the Maine Association of Agricultural Fairs.
“Our first priority is the health and safety of our community, volunteers and exhibitors who have supported us over the last 179 years,” the FCAS said in a statement released this week.
FCAS Secretary Neal Yeaton described the decision as a “really hard” one for the organization’s Board of Trustees and officers. He noted that the last time the fair was cancelled for an entire year was during World War 2.
“It’s a factor of the safety requirements and are you going to make any money?” Yeaton said Thursday.
Yeaton said that crowd restrictions limiting events to 50 people, counting fair volunteers and employees, would have made even partially opening the fair difficult. Additionally, Yeaton said, the cost of providing required personal protective gear and sanitizer would have put the fair in a significant financial hole before it opened to the public.
“We definitely couldn’t afford that if we couldn’t have a demolition derby or pulling events,” Yeaton said, referring to some of the fair’s most popular events which typically draw large crowds. “It’s just not possible to hold those while social distancing.”
Organizers had been meeting constantly on the subject over the last several weeks, Yeaton said. Thursday’s decision was made in part due to the Maine Harness Racing Commission needing an answer on whether the races could be held in Farmington this fall. The FCAS makes money off of gate admittance and a percentage of a handling fee associated with the betting that accompanies the races.
The FCAS statement indicates that the board did look into holding racing events only, but felt it was “impossible and unaffordable for the fair to meet the social distancing and PPE conditions that are needed to insure everyone’s safety.” FCAS also noted that the state had not issued any pulling licenses.
Yeaton noted that general maintenance across the fairgrounds would continue over the summer in preparation for future iterations of the event. The Farmington Fair is next scheduled to be held from Sept. 19 through Sept. 25, 2021.