The Dunn County Fair will not be the same this year.
The annual fair in July will be closed to the general public, with no carnival or grandstand events, because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The County Board on Wednesday night adopted a resolution that allows only 4-H and other youth-group-related activities to continue. All other elements of the fair, including the grandstand events, carnival, food court, food trucks, beer gardens, free entertainment stage and commercial building displays, will not take place.
The fair is scheduled for July 22-26.
“The main purpose was to make sure that we allow the youth of Dunn County to be able to show their projects, whether it be 4-H, FFA and other youth activities at the fair,” Supervisor Chuck Maves said. “We all understand and know how important that is.”
How the youth activities will be conducted to follow the resolution is up to the Fair Board, Maves said. The resolution was drafted with the understanding that administrative order 20-1 from the health department will be in effect, which advises against the gathering of 10 or more people in an enclosed space. The current order from the Dunn County Health Department is set to expire May 26.
The resolution states the fair shall only consist of 4-H and other youth group activities that can be conducted remotely. County manager Paul Miller said the intent of the language is that these activities could be done remotely if needed, but there is no requirement that it must be done that way.
There’s no intent from law enforcement or the health department to prohibit these activities if they can be done safely, he said.
“Our intent here is not to prohibit the 4-H, FFA and other youth-oriented activities from the organizations that take place, but rather to ensure that doing so we’re trying to, by the best of our ability, follow the recommendations from the public health department regarding COVID,” Miller said.
“I believe the proper interpretation, and I can certainly attest to the intent of this resolution, is to be permissive and not dismissive or prohibitive, and that’s the way we will interpret in in terms of application.”
Maves added that removing other activities from the commercial building will allow more space to conduct the youth project events.
The Fair Board released a statement on Thursday stating it will respectfully comply with the resolution. The Fair Board remains in communication with county officials, the Wisconsin Association of Fairs, International Association of Fairs and Expositions and others in the fair industry. More information on refunds and alternative plans for junior fair exhibits will be released at a later date.
“Our hearts are heavy knowing we cannot gather for our annual celebration as we have during the past 134 years, but now and always, the health and safety of our guests, participants and community is our highest priority,” fair board president Deb Gotlibson said. “Our mission is to provide an entertaining and educational event for people of all ages; we strive to do so in a safe and secure environment.”
Supervisor Larry Bjork said although the circumstances are different, discussion on the postponement or cancellation of the fair occurred in 1980 after a damaging wind storm. Most of Dunn County was without electricity but the fair went on and people adjusted.
“We don’t have trees across our driveways but we have restrictions in other areas,” Bjork said, “and I think you give the task to the people in Dunn County that work with youth in different areas and they’ll find an answer. It won’t be the same but it will be something to remember.”