Fair board cancels Sanpete County Fair
By Robert Stevens
MANTI—Faced with a very difficult choice, the Sanpete County Fair Board has cancelled this year’s county fair, partially because of COVID-19, but mostly due to a sluggish economy.
But the fair board made one important exception for the kids. The Jr. Livestock Show and Auction will go on.
“It was really hard,” said Sanpete County Fair co-chair Mike Bennett. “I had a lot of sleepless nights thinking about it. The fair is a way of life here in Sanpete, and so many people look forward to participating each year. Some people are kind of mad at us, but we had to make a decision in the best interests of the county and its people.”
More than one factor played a role in the decision to call off the fair, which, up until this point, had been moving forward with the assumption of it happening, with events starting as early as this month.
Bennet says the rising COVID-19 numbers were less of a factor than the state of the actual local economy. The Sanpete County Fair is one of the lowest funded fairs in the state, and depends mostly on sponsorships from local businesses to actually have the money to pull the annual event off.
“We feel like it’s just not right to be asking all these businesses who are already hurting with the state of the economy,” Bennet says. “Without the sponsorships, or guarantee of big crowds, the fair becomes practically impossible to pull off.”
In response to the question why Juab County is moving forward with their fair, but Sanpete is not, Bennett says it all comes back to funding still. According to Bennett, Juab’s fair receives significant funding from the local government, and does not rely on local businesses to the extent the Sanpete County Fair does, which is allowing them to move forward more easily during the economic downturn brought about by the public health crisis.
“We work with very little,” Bennett says. “We were already behind on planning and fundraising, and with the way things were still headed, it just couldn’t happen. A lot goes into the fair that people don’t realize.”
Bennett says COVID-19 related factors played a role as well in the decision. State and local numbers continue to rise, and the logistics of mitigating COVID-19 looked pretty intimidating.
In a social media post about the cancelation, the fair board issued a statement saying, “We have been watching updates from our local health department and see the cases growing in the Sanpete Valleys. It is our desire to not contribute to the growing pandemic. It’s hard to maintain social distance and keep everyone safe at a lot of our events.”
Although no mandated regulations for handling COVID had been given to the fair board, Bennett says they never would have moved forward without taking some very real precautions. The fair board had looked into the monumental task of sanitizing the fairgrounds regularly between major events each day, and that task alone was going to be a big one.
The only fair event that is being allowed to move forward is the Jr. Livestock Show and Auction. Bennett says the reasoning behind this decision was simple—they couldn’t let the kids take a hit on the animals they have been dutifully raising in anticipation of the event.
“We can’t pull the plug on these kids that have been feeding and raising the animals for so long,” Bennett says. “It’s going to be a little bit of a change of pace than usual, but we still want them to have the opportunity.”
Overall, being faced with the decision has taken a toll on the board members, who didn’t want to disappoint anyone.
“It was not taken lightly,” Bennett says. “I am upset over it. I love the fair, that’s why I joined. I love to put it on for the county and get everyone out.”
Bennett says they hope next year can be bigger and better than ever.
“We wish you all a healthy, safe and happy summer and look forward to our next fair in 2021,” wrote the board in their social media post.