‘Prudent Choice’ Means No Fair Again

Youth of the county 4-H are pictured with judge Brock Meanor at the 2019 4-H Rabbit Show at the Chautauqua County Fair. P-J file photo

For the second straight summer, the COVID-19 crisis has forced the canceling of the Chautauqua County Fair while impacting one of its greatest participants.

In a message posted to Facebook on Tuesday morning, the fair board said, “Due to the continued COVID – 19 situation, its impact on community health and well-being, the 2021 Chautauqua County Fair is postponed until July 18-24, 2022.

“The safety of the Chautauqua County Fair’s visitors, participants and community is the highest priority in producing the annual fair. After careful consideration, it became clear that the postponement was the prudent choice for the fair to do its part to improve community health and safety, and reduce the cycle of infection.”

Later in the day, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Chautauqua County noted its support for postponing the event until 2022 for health and safety reasons. The county 4-H statement noted it recognizes that during these continued times of uncertainty, it can be difficult to plan, afford, and host a large scale in-person event.

“Chautauqua County 4-H youth however have been working since November on a variety of projects and are raising livestock and pets for competition and showcase at such an event,” the 4-H release said. “So, the cancellation of County Fair for the second year in a row can seem overwhelming. 4-H staff, with immense support from the volunteers in the program, are making plans to support the youth with a scaled down opportunity.

“Plans are being forged for a Chautauqua County 4-H youth-only project exhibition and livestock event. The goal is to give the youth an opportunity to finish an animal for market, showcase a breeding animal and hone their animal handling and showmanship skills.”

Chautauqua County 4-H said the cost of hosting such an event is yet to be determined, as are many details of such an opportunity. However, the staff and volunteers are dedicated and committed to making something available for Chautauqua youth in 2021.

Income for the organization also is a concern. “The cancellation of the county fair also brings forth other complications, such as the loss of 4-H’s second largest fundraiser for the year, the 4-H Snack Bar, of which proceeds typically support nearly four months of 4-H programming. Additional complications surround the scheduling and planning for the Annual Meat Animal Sale in which youth earn proceeds for the animals in which they have raised, learn valuable marketing, promotion, and other life lessons, and provide high quality meat to residents in Chautauqua County. Details are yet to be determined for a 2021 sale.”

County fair board president Dave Wilson understood the impact of the decision to cancel.

“We are heartbroken for the second year in a row for the small businesses, family farms, competitors, exhibitors and everyone who relies on the income and exposure that the Chautauqua County Fair brings them,” he said.

“Since 1881, we have only canceled the fair for three years during World War II (1942-1944) when the fairgrounds were used for a Prisoner of War Camp for the Germans, Japanese and Italians and last year due to the COVID – 19 pandemic,” Wilson said.

Though the state did lift additional restrictions that go into effect later this month — and vaccination numbers increasing, planning for the fair is normally starting to be finalized at this point, which was another reason for the postponement until next year.

“We look forward to brighter days ahead when we can gather to celebrate all that is exceptional in Chautauqua County,” Wilson said. “Until then, stay safe, be well and support each other. We’ll miss you.”


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