Zach George

File. Zach George shows a steer at the Wood County Fair.

The Wood County Health Department board is recommending that the fair board adopt a pull-in show format for next week’s event.

The suggestion comes after Gov. Mike DeWine early on Tuesday greatly reduced county fair operations, canceling rides and grandstand entertainment due to coronavirus concerns.

The health board already had a special meeting scheduled on Tuesday, to discuss hiring a new commissioner. The Wood County Fair, which starts Monday, was also on the agenda.

Ben Batey, outgoing health commissioner, said he had received several concerns about the fair and it was put on the agenda.

“Today the decision was made by the governor,” he said at Tuesday’s meeting, “which has drastically changed any of the conversation we would have had.”

Starting Aug. 1, only junior fairs are allowed in Ohio.

The Wood County Fair had been planning rides and entertainment throughout next week, along with the junior fair for animals.

One concern that DeWine’s actions on Tuesday did not address is the requirement that animals be on the fairgrounds all week, Batey said.

Board member Bob Midden asked why the animals had to be there all week.

Board member Richard Strow, who said he is familiar with fair operations, then recommended the pull-in show.

During this event, each species comes in the night before and is penned. The exhibiting starts the next day with shows through the evening.

The times and species could be staggered, with beef cattle in at same time as rabbits, for example, Strow said. Then pigs and goats could be shown, followed by dairy and sheep.

The negative to this — particularly with larger livestock — is some animals are not accustomed to showing up and having to be exhibited.

The fair board would need to be flexible, Strow said, with adults stepping in if there’s a problem with a larger animal during showing. There could be accommodations, such as halters for goats.

“For the safety of everybody involved, the fewer people that you have there at one given time … I think that’s going to go a long way,” Strow said.

He formally made a motion to recommend to the fair board that it adopt a pull-in show format and make necessary accommodations.

Board member Sonia Apple-Chamberlain abstained and the rest of the board approved.

The board then adjourned into an executive session to discuss hiring.

During the session, senior fair board member Garrett Chamberlain arrived at the meeting. When the board was back in regular session, members told him about the motion.

Garrett Chamberlain told the health board that the fair board had a special meeting set for Wednesday.

After the meeting, Chamberlain said the fair board is still reeling from DeWine’s announcement.

He said as one of two dozen board members, he did not want to comment on the health board’s recommendation of the pull-in show.

“We’ll discuss every option presented to us. We’re still digesting the order that came down today,” Chamberlain said. “We’re going to do our best to do everything we can for the kids.”

The financial burden is immense, he said. The entertainment and rides bring people into the fair gates and that’s what pays for the junior fair.

The state did give fair boards that put on junior fairs $50,000, but Chamberlain said that does not begin to cover the costs of a junior fair, which is about $130,000.

“Without those things, we’re going to be in a tough spot financially,” he said.