The Stoughton Fair is the latest local cancellation in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Tuesday, May 19, the Stoughton Fair Board announced in a Facebook post that the fair, originally scheduled for June 30 through July 5, is not happening.
This year would have marked the 95th year for the annual event. Canceling it will cost the fair board more than $30,000 in sponsorships, board member Trevor Dybevik told the Hub.
Each year, exhibitors from various 4-H and FFA clubs come together to show projects related to photography, clothing, woodwork and animals.
“Our youth exhibitors and fair traditions are very important to us, but nothing is more important than the health and safety of every patron that joins us at the Stoughton Fair,” the May 19 Facebook post states.
The announcement was made one week after the Dane County Fair Association canceled its four-day event, citing health concerns and the venue’s new purpose as a COVID-19 testing site. It came one day after Dane County released updated guidelines for reopening activities that made it clear that even under the best circumstances, it would limit gatherings to 250 people until there is a vaccine or an effective treatment for COVID-19.
Mollie Biermeier, Stoughton High School’s FFA adviser and agriculture instructor, said this is another blow for her students after the cancellation of Syttende Mai and the Dane County Fair.
Although Biermeier is in her first year with the district and has been on maternity leave, she has been preparing for the fair with former FFA director Jerry Wendt since the winter.
“More than anything, it lets them showcase their animals to their own community,” Biermeier said. “And they use it as an opportunity to prepare their animals and themselves for future fairs.”
The Stoughton Fair Board encouraged people to support the youth who had planned to sell their livestock during the meat auction by still purchasing it from them. The money the exhibitors make from selling livestock can go toward feed bills, college funds or other fair projects, the post states.
The fair board’s announcement included a concession to students who were expecting to age out this year. They will be allowed to show in 2021, the post states.
The board said nothing has been as challenging as making this decision.
“We hope to never be faced with this again,” the post stated. “We would like to wish everyone the most enjoyable summer possible. Get outside as much as possible and stay healthy and safe. We look forward to seeing all of you next year.”
The announcement was unsurprising to many in light of continued restrictions on gatherings, but Dybevik, the board’s former president, said the board has been debating the options for a month and has been discussing its options with Public Health Madison Dane County during that time.
“The biggest thing about the fair is it brings everybody together,” Dybevik told the Hub. “And with so many things unknown – as far as what policy would be – we couldn’t make that decision in good faith.”
He said the board made the decision before the county announced its new guidelines on reopening. He said that made the decision easier, but part of the justification was that there was no feasible way to postpone it until later in the summer, considering the costs for the carnival, rodeo and other acts.
“Our fair is one of the first of the season, and unfortunately we are under time constraints,” Dybevik said. “We couldn’t possibly risk putting on a fair that nobody is going to come to, that wouldn’t make sense for us or our vendors.”