Ohio State Fair will not be open to the public this summer

Earl Hopkins
The Columbus Dispatch

The Ohio Expositions Commission announced Thursday that the 2021 Ohio State Fair will not be open to the public. Instead, the annual event will focus on agricultural and educational competitions for exhibitors, their families and guests.

In an online release, members of the commission expressed concerns for the public health of residents and guests, as well as the potential financial impact of hosting a fair under current COVID-19 safety protocols. 

“Although vaccination rates are improving significantly each day, Ohio continues to fight the battle against COVID-19," General Manager Virgil Strickler said in the release.

"Where we are today in this battle makes it challenging to plan a large-scale entertainment event, not knowing where we will be, or what Ohio will look like, in late July.

"In addition, the important safety protocols that have been put in place to protect Ohioans, like indoor seating capacities, may lead to attendance that is considerably lower than previous years. The financial ramifications of hosting a typical Ohio State Fair with the same overhead costs, but far less revenue, could be devastating to our organization. In a typical year, the Ohio State Fair’s budget is designed to break even, with a nominal profit, if any. Hosting a full fair this year would likely lead to significant financial loss.”

This year's fair, which is scheduled for July 28 to Aug. 8, will be limited to exhibitors and family members for youth and senior livestock competitions, along with educational project judging for non-livestock competitions, such as 4-H.

The announcement was made before Gov. Mike DeWine's Thursday coronavirus press conference, where he said he anticipates all county fairs and independent fairs will have full fairs this year, and the decision made by the commission was unique to the state fair because of its size.

“The important thing for me, I think the importing thing I think for all of us, is young people will have the experience of taking their projects to the state fair this year like a normal year they would be able to do,” DeWine said.

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The Ohio State Fair will not allow visitors this summer.

Many offerings expected to come back in 2022

Offerings associated with the Ohio State Fair — such as rides, concerts, entertainers, live music, food vendors and other features — are expected to return in 2022, according to the release. 

Fans disappointed after the announcement

With Thursday's announcement, longtime attendee Chris Loos said he's disappointed he and others won't be able to attend the event, an experience that's long been a yearly tradition in his household.

"There's no food, no rides; it's not even the fair at this point," said Loos, 23, of Galloway.

DeVante Jackson, 24, of Hilliard, said there shouldn't be a fair at all this year, especially with so many features being removed. 

"The fair is supposed to be catered to us — people that live in Ohio," he said. "If the fair is not catering to us, I'd rather not have it. I don't want it to be mediocre. It sounds like more of a science fair." 

Detailed plans for the livestock and educational competitions are forthcoming. At this time, staff members expect livestock shows to begin July 19 and conclude Aug. 8. The deadline for exhibitors to enter livestock competitions will be June 20.

The 2022 Ohio State Fair is slated for July 27 to Aug. 7.


Jacalyn Borchardt contributed to this story