Local fair officials are moving forward with plans for a full fair this year, while state officials continue to debate how to proceed.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine Tuesday vetoed legislation sent to him that would negate a public health order issued July 30 limiting fairs to junior fair-only events.
The legislation would allow full fair events to begin again this year, while forming an Agricultural Society Working Group for this year to come up with protocols for safe operations of fairs and festivals.
Following last year’s order, the Henry County Agricultural Society opted to hold a junior fair only event that included a livestock exposition.
Wayne Michaelis of the Henry County Agricultural Society said he felt such an event was important for local youth who had already lost so much from schools being out of session during the pandemic and who had invested time in their animals.
“During the 2020 fair season, many county and independent fairs stepped up to the plate,” DeWine said in issuing the veto. “Coordinating with their local health departments, they worked hard to ensure social distancing requirements and mask wearing.”
Michaelis said the local ag society worked well with the Henry County Board of Health to pull off last year’s event, but the society, as of now, is planning on proceeding as if a full event fair will take place this year.
“We’ve approved the theme and the grand marshal, and we’re planning to have a full fair,” Michaelis said.
Henry County Chamber of Commerce Director Joel Miller will be honored as grand marshal this year. He was set to receive it last year, and Michaelis said that will simply carry forward.
He added he sat in on a Zoom meeting with members from around the state of the Ohio Fair Managers Association (OFMA) to discuss the issue. He said the plan at that time was that if DeWine vetoed the legislation, the association would lobby legislators to override it.
“When I get done with my main job today (Tuesday), I’m going to go home and call a representative and a senator,” Michaelis said with a chuckle.
Napoleon is home to State Rep. Jim Hoops and Sen. Rob McColley, both Republicans who also voted in favor of the legislation. The bill passed 22-7 in the Senate and 54-30 in the House.
All dissenting votes came from Democrats.
During committee hearings on the legislation, Rod Arter, president of OFMA, testified that the restrictions were a hardship for fairs around the state last year.
“The OFMA certainly prioritizes the junior fair activities at our fair,” Arter said. “They are a cornerstone of the event and allow Ohio’s youth to be recognized for the hard work they put towards their projects and raising their livestock.
“However, junior fair alone does not make a county fair financially stable,” he added.
The state did provide up to $50,000 to fairs which decided to hold junior fair events, including Henry County.
“We were financially conservative and the $50,000 really helped us out,” Michaelis said.
However, he also noted revenue was only about $4,000 last year.
“That does hurt, but you also don’t have some of the bills coming in that you normally do,” Michaelis said.
Arter pointed out now is the planning time for county fairs and festivals, and officials on the societies, consisting of volunteers, need clarification on how to proceed.
DeWine said he would continue to discuss the issue with health officials and others going forward.