The County Commissioners received a recommendation from the County Fair & Rodeo Board to cancel the 2020 fair and rodeo because of coronavirus and COVID-19. The Commissioners gave notice of a public meeting to consider the recommendation and invite public comment and citizen participation in the decision.
This would have been the Centennial year of the Richland County Fair & Rodeo. For 100 years it has had tremendous importance to thousands of people because of its many different components. For as long as they could, county personnel did all they could to maintain this valuable tradition by having the fair and making it as safe as reasonably possible.
Recent events have shown that holding the fair would be either impossible or unreasonably difficult because of the higher and irresistible force of the COVID-19 pandemic, and after trying everything it could, the county could not overcome the effects of the pandemic.
For many years, the fair has contracted with outside services to clean and sanitize the grounds, buildings, and facilities because the county did not have enough of its own personnel for those responsibilities. The contractor for this year recently notified the county that, because of COVID-19, it could not perform its contract. In the time that remains, the county could not make other adequate arrangements. Without cleaning and sanitization, the county cannot comply with government health restrictions and standards.
Recent large events at the fairgrounds have shown that social distancing and other guidelines remain a serious challenge. The Sheriff of Richland County expressed concerns about the ability of his Office to enforce guidelines that had been developed to try to hold the fair safely.
Schools are scheduled to open two weeks after the fair. If the fair were to cause an outbreak of worsening pandemic at that time, the mistake could have a cascading effect on schools and the education of our children.
Recent information about decisions the Governor of Montana will be making has made it uncertain what phase of gubernatorial restrictions would be in place at fair time.
After holding out as long as we could and trying everything we could to hold the fair, we reached a time when we had to decide. Our decision is to cancel this year’s fair.
As an exception to the cancellation, the Richland County 4-H Youth will be able to have their events and livestock sale with attendance limited to family and auction bidders. This is in accord with the recommendation of the fair board and public comments.
The fair board, manager, commissioners, and fair employees thank you for your patience and understanding with our attempts to hold the fair and eventual decision that we must cancel it.