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Ohio State Fair Begins With No Rides Or Spectators

The Ohio State Fair entrance gate.
The Ohio State University
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The Ohio State Fair entrance gate.

For the first time since 2019, the Ohio State Fair begins Monday. But don’t expect any funnel cakes or carousels. There are no rides or public events scheduled at this year’s fair, after the Ohio Expositions Commission voted in April to make the 2021 event a junior fair.

“Not just for the health and safety of Ohioans, but also for the long term financial viability of the Ohio State Fair,” said Alicia Shoults, the assistant general manager of the Ohio Expo Center and Ohio State Fair.

“Because obviously it does cost a lot of money to put the event on, and not knowing what the future looked like back in April, this is the decision that had to be made,” Shoults said.

Even with no public events, the 2021 Ohio State Fair is a big improvement over 2020, when the fair was canceled entirely because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Ohio appears to be unique with its COVID-related state fair restrictions in 2021. According to a list on the website travelawaits.com, Ohio is the only state operating a fair that’s closed to the public. Nearly all states are going forward with typical fairs, while California postponed its state fair from this month to a still-unannounced date later this year.

In Ohio, county fairs are also in full swing this summer.

Shoults said while they may be forfeiting ticket revenue, there was no guarantee the fair would make money if pandemic-related restrictions were necessary.

“We’re really thankful that county fairs and other states fairs around the country are able to happen,” Shoults said. “The decision (to make Ohio’s fair a non-public event) had to be made early to allow for appropriate time to plan, and when the decision was made the commission members discussed it and they said ‘Listen, this is something we’re going to have to discuss and we’re going to have to stick to.’”

Shoults said they’re preparing for things to return to normal in 2022, including the return of the Butter Cow, the iconic dairy sculpture that will not be at the state fair this year.

Click here for a list of fair livestock events.