CIRCLEVILLE — The Pickaway County Senior Fair board has made the fair happen this year despite the increased workload due to the COVID-19 pandemic and related shutdowns and new rules and regulations that were constantly changing for the last several months.

The Pickaway County Fair is the first fair in the state and features many of the usual stables of a county fair including rides, food vendors and the animal shows.

At their final meeting before the fair, Von Cremeans, fair board president, spoke about what all the fair board has gone through to make the 2020 fair a reality.

“I’ve argued and fought our way to where we’re at,” he stated. “I thank the commissioners for their assistance and support. They’ve been awesome to work with and help us work with the health department to understand how to make things work.”

Cremeans said on June 1, he got an email that said there would be no fair. However, they’ve fought hard to take that reality and work toward what is at the fairgrounds this week.

One person has seen that fight first hand, Cremeans wife, Betsy.

“Everyone has put a lot of time and effort into this years fair,” she mentioned. “It’s not only because of COVID and all the additional parameters, but even the fact of whether or not we were able to have a fair was a last minute decision. We’ve known for about 10 days we were able to have a full fair and be in accordance with Responsible Restart Ohio. ”

Betsy Cremeans, who works with fair board secretary Christy Pence, who is appointed by the board, said that there have been numerous iterations of the plan to have the fair all-changing based on daily updates and guidelines from the governor and health department.

“A failure to plan is a plan to fail,” she said. “That’s what we talk about all the time. The fair board has always been planning for the maximum potential we could all the time. We had a plan B that was a junior fair.”

Cremeans said she’s heard the conversations and saw her husband lose sleep over the fair.

“There’s been a million different plans and tons of time and effort to find the one that can be executed,” she added. “I can attest that my husband lost nights and nights of sleep because he wanted to do the maximum allowable for the kids. That’s why he’s done all this. He’s a big advocate for the fair, 4-H and FFA and all they have to offer. It was a lot of restless nights working to get everything together.”

Cremeans was quick to share that like her husband, the other board members were putting in just as much effort and in turn have received a lot of community support.

“I want the community to understand how hard the fair board has been working for these kids,” she remarked. “We’ve caught some grief on Facebook about why we’d push for this. There are a lot of people concerned about safety and we’re concerned too. We understand for a lot of these kids, they didn’t have a senior year, didn’t get their last season. We’re doing this for them.”

Joy Sharp, OSU Extension Educator and 4-H Youth Development, said the board has been stubborn in making sure they have a full fair.

“This board was determined to persevere and to have a fair,” she stated. “There was never a doubt that came out to the community that fair wasn’t going to happen. What that fair looked like was being determined by higher-ups, but they were determined, thoughtful and had attention to detail.”

Sharp said the board has collaborated with many different groups to ensure they put on the best possible fair.

“I appreciate that this group as a team is one that collaborates,” she said. “They’ve collaborated with the health department, the extension office, they’ve talked to kids, parents, producers, packer buyers. They think of all the little things that make the big picture and that’s what makes them a fabulous team.”

Sharp said COVID-19 and the related shutdowns have taken a lot of things away from the kids this year; not only many of the seniors’ lasts, but also some of the younger kids.

“I’ve seen the seniors that have been heartbroken, but also all the way down to the little ones that it’s their first year,” she said. “It’s a big learning curve that first year and trying to have all the information and be able to have a fair for them as well. I think it’s been rough for every age group and their families, bottom to top.”

Rodney Arter, president, of the Ohio Fair Managers Association Board of Directors, shared how hard it’s been to handle the constant changes and put on fairs for local fair boards. Arter said he’s had to cancel all their meetings and meetings throughout the state and he’s about had it doing meetings over Zoom.

“We started using Zoom meetings for district meetings and groups and I am all Zoomed out,” he commented. “This has been a challenge like we’ve never seen and I hope we never see again. It shouldn’t be this hard.”

Arter said they’ve been in contact with members of the state government who have helped them both secure funding to help cover additional costs of putting on the fairs and to navigate the rules and regulations.

“What (the Pickaway County Fair Board) has accomplished in three weeks has been amazing,” he mentioned. “I said back in March when all this broke that we’re not going to see fairs like we have before and every fair is going to be different than it’s ever been as much as we try and as hard as we work. All this extra money and time are things we’ve not had to do in the past and it’s all new to us.”

Cremeans said she was proud of the fair board and her husband for what they’ve done

“I couldn’t be more proud of everything he’s pushed through and the things he’s endured and he’s not done it single handedly,” she said. “My sister sits on a fair board in northern Ohio. I hear the things they say. Our leadership is what’s catapulted us ahead and above the other fairs. Until you’ve been involved in it, you don’t have any idea of what it takes to put the fair on. You don’t know what goes into it.”

Cremeans said she has seen people say having the fair is all about the money, but from her point of view, that’s not the case.

“It’s not about that or the income, it’s about offering the kids some sense of normalcy and giving them something that they’ve not had for three months,” she said. “Pushing forward isn’t about the money, it’s about the sense of commitment. We’re only able to do it because we have a fair board that’s 100 percent committed to the community and the future of the youth in the community.”

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