CHARLESTON, W.Va. — As of today, the State Fair of West Virginia is still scheduled to begin on Aug. 13 in Greenbrier County.
Whether that happens in the coronavirus pandemic, though, is a decision Kelly Collins, Fair CEO, said organizers have to make by the middle of June.
The clock was ticking on Thursday.
“For an event the scale of the State Fair, we have to keep planning it. It takes more than a couple of months to plan this event, so we have to plan up until we can’t plan anymore,” Collins said.
In addition to her role as State Fair CEO, Collins also serves as president of the West Virginia Association of Fairs and Festivals.
Many member events have been canceled.
At the end of May, Collins said there was not a lot of guidance coming from the state level for fairs and festivals, large sporting events and concerts.
However, she said there was also no state directive to cancel all such events.
A “Safer At Home” order from Governor Jim Justice remained in effect for West Virginia which limited gatherings to fewer than 25 people in many cases.
Businesses and churches, operating under separate guidelines, were not included.
“They told us that they want to see how the numbers go for the next few weeks,” Collins said.
“We had a lot of openings recently and, with Memorial Day Weekend, I think that we really need to see what things look like two weeks down the road from now.”
Many fairs and other events, Collins said, were coming up on decision days.
“Most of the decisions that have been made now, it’s not because anybody told them, ‘No, you can’t have it,’ it’s just the nature of planning in this business is that these decisions can’t happen a week before the event,” she said.
“They’re going to have to happen months in advance.”
One of the largest state fairs in the United States, the Minnesota State Fair, has been canceled for 2020. It was supposed to open on Aug. 26.
In-person State Fairs have also been called off in Ohio, Alaska and Oregon.
“I’ve been showing livestock at the State Fair since I was seven-years-old. I’ve never missed a State Fair in my life, so to think about a summer without the State Fair for me is heartbreaking, but we also know that it may be a decision that we have to make,” Collins said.
“It’s not something that anybody wants to do. We understand the economic impact, but safety always comes first.”
The State Fair is typically held each August in Fairlea.