COVID-19 has forced cancellation of many events in 2020, but Utahns still have an annual state fair to look forward to — although it will be modified for safety during the pandemic.
In a State Fairpark Committee meeting Friday, lawmakers passed a motion to allow a modified version of the state fair to take place from Sept. 10 through Sept. 20.
“One of the ways that we can mitigate some of the risk and exposure,” said Larry Mullenax, state Fairpark executive director, “is by removing some of the elements that create situations where people would gather.”
He said the nonprofit would start by limiting the number of people allowed into the fair at any one time to 6,000, and that the number would increase to 12,000-15,000 only if the number of new coronavirus cases continue to decline.
Mullenax noted that the Fairpark is a massive 68 acres, and it was built to host big events.
“As I travel and I visit with my associates and peers throughout the state, events are happening,” Mullenax told lawmakers. “But they’re happening in areas that are not [purposefully] built [for social distancing].”
The nonprofit plans to use a digital ticketing platform this year. This will require all patrons to log on to a website and provide their personal information, which will be used for contact tracing if a Utahn tests positive for COVID-19.
Utahns will primarily use electronic tickets to enter the park, although some print tickets will be available.
Mullenax said the nonprofit is also working on an app that will let patrons order food and pre-pay online, eliminating lines. The app will tell visitors when their food is ready and where to pick it up.
This year the Fairpark is canceling the open livestock show because the event attracts too many visitors. But the organization will still host educational agricultural exhibits and barnyard friends.
“That’s a great opportunity to help people understand where their food and products come from,” Mullenax noted. “But also to help agricultural friends promote and sell their products.”
He said the Fairpark will still allow competitive entries from youth exhibitors that are part of 4-H and FFA.
However the park will not be accepting any competitive entries that are typically associated with the fair, such as blue ribbon items. Mullenax said there are too many points of contact involved in collecting, recording and displaying these.
The Fairpark has also canceled all concerts that typically play inside the arena.
And while the state fair is still offering food, officials have reduced the number of vendors by 50%, from 70 vendors to roughly 30.
But the fair will still host three arena events — Utah’s Own Rodeo, The Monster Trucks and the Demo Derby.
Mullenax said the nonprofit chose those three events because “it’s easier for us to provide adequate social distancing in between family groups.”
In an effort to help struggling performers who are currently unable to tour, the state Fairpark has reached out to about 20 local artists and is giving them the opportunity to play at the fair.
Mullenax said if these performers play, social distancing will still be enforced and no additional visitors will be allowed into the park.
He also emphasized that the Fairpark has been “very clear all along regardless of the product that we put on we are going to require our guests to wear masks.”
You can learn more about the 2020 state fair at https://www.utahstatefair.com/.