The 2020 Black Swamp Arts Festival Festival, set for Sept. 11-13, has been canceled, the planning committee announced on Friday.
“Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, we were planning a great festival with an additional evening of art on Friday,” said Jamie Sands, chair of the Black Swamp Arts Festival, in a statement. “After thorough research and analysis, we have come to the conclusion that it is not possible to guarantee the health and safety of our guests and volunteers.
“We love the festival and volunteer all year to make it happen, but the health and safety of our community is paramount.”
All artists who have applied will receive their fees returned to them.
In a followup interview, Sands said there are so many different aspects to the arts festival — the art show, beer sales, music performance, youth art — that it was difficult to know all of it could be safe.
“We concluded that there were no plausible scenarios for hosting a festival crowd that would assure the health and safety of all participants. Everyone is disappointed, but we all hold public health as paramount,” she said.
The decision to cancel the arts festival was made before the Ohio State Fair cancellation was announced on Thursday, Sands said.
“The Ohio State Fair was announced after the festival decision was made. We chose to contact our artists, performing artists, and community partners before sending the message out to the community,” she said.
“Our decision came down to one question: Can we ensure the health and safety of festival goers and volunteers? As hard as we worked toward solutions, that answer remained, no.”
The 2021 Black Swamp Arts Festival is set for Sept. 10-12.
There are no final decisions on the Wood County Fair, scheduled for Aug. 3-10, and the National Tractor Pulling Championships, set for Aug. 20-22.
Organizers, though, have been working for weeks on contingency plans. The fair board has its regular monthly meeting Thursday night, and has been meeting — virtually — to discuss plans every Thursday.
Dave Schultz is one of nine directors and the secretary of the Northwestern Ohio Tractor Pullers Association in Bowling Green.
He said they have been meeting regularly with Ben Batey, Wood County Health commissioner, and Ohio Rep. Haraz Ghanbari, R-Bowling Green.
They hope to meet with Gov. Mike DeWine before making a final call, Schultz said. A decision may be made by July 1, he said.
The annual event brings 80,000 people to the city in August.
One of the contingency plans is to hold the event without spectators, Schultz said.
“That’s one of the things we’re looking at. We’re looking at all of the options,” he said.
Competing pullers come from all over the country and the world, Schultz said.
“We have Canadian pullers, there’s a team that comes from the Netherlands.
“We never want to put Bowling Green in a bad light,” he said. “We never want to jeopardize Bowling Green, it is our home.”
The Ohio Expositions Commissions announced Thursday it will cancel the 2020 Ohio State Fair.
The event was originally scheduled for July 29-Aug. 9 in Columbus. In a press release, the commission said its decision to cancel was due to its concerns “for public health, as well as the financial feasibility of hosting a socially distant fair that would adhere to social distancing protocols.”
“After careful thought and deliberation, we have decided to cancel the Ohio State Fair. Knowing how easily the virus spreads in large groups, we believe it is the safest path forward for the health and safety of all Ohioans,” said Andy Doehrel, chair of the Ohio Expositions Commission. “The financial ramifications of hosting a reduced-capacity fair would be too great, and we need to protect the great Ohio State Fair for future generations.”
“Our first priority is the safety of the hundreds of thousands of people involved in the Ohio State Fair each year,” said Virgil Strickler, general manager of the Ohio Expo Center & State Fair. “While this is a difficult decision, we feel it is necessary to protect the fair-goers, exhibitors, volunteers, vendors, partners, performers, concessionaires, youth leaders, employees and sponsors.
“I look forward to seeing my fellow Ohioans at the 2021 Ohio State Fair, when it is safer for us to enjoy our favorite traditions together,” he added.
Last year, 934,925 people attended the Ohio State Fair during its 12-day run. These attendees came from each of Ohio’s 88 counties, all 50 states, the District of Columbia, as well as Canada and Mexico.
The Ohio Expositions Commission further stated it is focused on developing a strategy to responsibly reopen its year-round facilities when appropriate, and to welcome guests back for the 2021 Ohio State Fair, scheduled for July 28 through Aug. 8, 2021.
(Darke County Media contributed to this story.)