Fair draws in thousands ahead of rainy days

Hundreds walk up and down streets at the Bloomsburg Fair on Wednesday.

BLOOMSBURG — The 165th Bloomsburg Fair is canceled for 2020, according to an announcement from fair officials on Tuesday.

The Bloomsburg Fair Association made the announcement on social media and its website, saying the board members "found it necessary to gather and interpret vast amounts of information regarding the COVID-19 pandemic." It is the second time in the event's history, dating to 1855, that it's been canceled, the other in 2011 due to flooding from Tropical Storm Lee.

The event was scheduled this year for Sept. 25 to Oct. 3.

"After much deliberation, local community concerns and concerns from local government, The Board has made the decision to cancel the 2020 Bloomsburg Fair," fair officials said in a statement. "This was a very difficult decision, but our concern for the health and safety of our community outweighs our desire to host this year’s fair. The Bloomsburg Fair Association is committed to the overall well being of the entire region, and we do not wish to put anyone in jeopardy in order to open our gates. We will, instead, take this time to make improvements, train staff, and look to the future."

Pat Benetar, Jon Pardi, Brad Paisley and Chicago concerts had been booked to perform at the 2020 fair, but their shows were previously postponed until 2021 Fair Week.

Any decision that will ultimately affect thousands of people and an entire region should not be made casually, fair officials said.

"Each year the Fair is responsible to our 1,100 vendors, thousands of exhibitors, many local artists, our generous sponsors, and the families that enter our gates in search of education, fun and memories that last a lifetime," officials said.

They continued, "The Bloomsburg Fair Association is committed to the overall well-being of the entire region, and we do not wish to put anyone in jeopardy in order to open our gates. We will, instead, take this time to make improvements, train staff, and look to the future. We are already busy planning the 2021 Bloomsburg Fair, which will be full of exciting opportunities for our visitors. Many entertainers have already agreed to perform on our Grandstand stage in 2021, new and impressive free entertainment is planned, many innovative surprises will delight families, and, of course, all of our traditional food, livestock and educational opportunities will be available for all to experience at our 2021 Bloomsburg Fair, to be held from September 24 through October 2. So, although many in our community will miss the fair, we look forward to providing a safe, secure and healthy event next year."

Attempts to reach Fair Board President Randy Karschner and other fair officials were unsuccessful. A grandstand receptionist answered the phone at the fairgrounds but could not provide further details. 

Bloomsburg Mayor Bill Kreisher said he believes the fair officials made the correct decision. He and the town council reached out to fair officials last week to ask them to not move forward with the plans to host the event.

"Certainly the fair is a tremendous benefit economically to the town, but we're happy they have canceled it," said Kreisher. "The fair brings in between 30,000 and 60,000 people a day and I don't think that would be good."

Kreisher said the council was waiting to hear about the decision. They were considering consulting with the governor's office or seeking legal action to have the fair canceled, he said.

"We contemplated it, we don't have to do it, and I'm glad about that," he said.

The guidelines from the state would be "almost impossible" to follow had the fair moved forward and the town risked losing state money if they weren't complying, said Kreisher.

"I just hope this COVID-19 pandemic clears up soon enough so we can start the economy back up," he said. "It's devasting to the town and the state, but sacrifices have to be made."

Columbia-Montour Visitors Bureau Executive Director David "Otto" Kurecian said the news didn't come as a surprise. The Columbia-Montour Visitors Bureau also announced last week that the annual Covered Bridge Festival, held annually at Knoebels Amusement Resort in early October, is canceled this year. The event was scheduled from Oct. 8-11

"I don't think it was unexpected," said Kurecian. "It was for the same reason we canceled the Covered Bridge Festival."

The economic impact of the festival is $14.2 million, so Kurecian said he is sure the Bloomsburg Fair brings in even more revenue for the local economy.

"We always remain hopeful for next year," said Kurecian about both events. "But we're not in charge. The virus is in charge."

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