Wisconsin State Fair - 2

A pair of young fairgoers stuck their heads in a cut out featuring two dairy cows at the Wisconsin State Fair in West Allis.

Summer schedules continue to open up.

State Fair Park Board of Directors Chairman John Yingling announced May 28 the 2020 Wisconsin State Fair, which had been scheduled for Aug. 6-16 in West Allis, has been canceled due to COVID-19 concerns.

Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection interim Secretary Randy Romanski said the State Fair board made a difficult decision taking into account safety of fairgoers and staff.

"We know how important State Fair is to Wisconsin: the tradition, the showcase of agriculture, the importance of the opportunity for youth exhibitors. It's a really important part of our state, and has been for many years," Romanski said in a May 28 ag media conference call. "The first priority is to make sure we have a safe and healthy experience for all as part of the State Fair."

In a news release from the State Fair Park Board of Directors, Yingling said the decision to cancel the 2020 Wisconsin State Fair was not taken lightly.

“Months of deliberation took place, considering all options to host a Fair that adheres to the highest standard of safety without compromising the experience," Yingling said in a news release. "We explored countless models, but ultimately safety cannot be compromised. The risks associated with hosting an event of this size and scope right now are just too great.”

The Wisconsin State Fair is the largest event in the State of Wisconsin, drawing more than 1 million people over the course of 11 days.

According to the State Fair Park Board of Directors, the magnitude of the financial implications associated with hosting a fair with significantly reduced attendance, as well as implementing the recommended mass gathering safety measures, could be detrimental to the future of State Fair Park. "The State Fair Park Board has the responsibility to be stewards of the public funds entrusted to Wisconsin State Fair Park and ensure the financial viability of the Fair Park not only heading into 2021, but for years to come," the news release said.

“The Wisconsin State Fair is so much more than just a fair — it is a celebration of everything we are so proud of in Wisconsin,” Kathleen O’Leary, CEO of Wisconsin State Fair Park, said in a news release. “We have tremendously loyal fairgoers, vendors, partners and exhibitors. For that we are forever grateful, and our greatest responsibility is to ensure that the fair remains strong and resilient for future generations.”

Admission tickets already purchased will be valid for the 2021 Wisconsin State Fair. However, refunds are also available through June 30. For more information, visit wistatefair.com.

Wisconsin's state fair cancellation comes on the heels of Minnesota and Ohio making similar decisions. Illinois and Iowa are still considering the fates of their state fairs.

"We've seen some of our neighboring and Midwestern states in kind of the same boat as we are in when it comes to what's going to happen with the fair," Romanski said. 

Also during his May 28 ag media conference call, Romanski said DATCP, the Wisconsin Department of Revenue and Gov. Tony Evers are working together to finalize details relating to distribution to farmers of $50 million in CARES Act funding.

Romanski encouraged farmers to sign-up for email updates on the direct aid program and food insecurity initiative on the DATCP website, https://datcp.wi.gov/Pages/News_Media/COVID19Relief.aspx.

"We are working as quickly as we can to get information put together with farm organizations and out to the public," Romanski said. "We've had some really productive discussions with farm groups. They've offered a variety of scenarios, and we want to make sure we're taking a look at that."

(Copyright © 2020 APG Media)

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