Richland County Cancels Fair
Community News Staff After hearing a recommendation by the Richland County Fair board to cancel this year's fair, the Richland County Commissioners voted by a 2-1 margin on Monday, June 29, afternoon to cancel the four-day long event.
Fair board member Chris Hillesland noted that logistics and health concerns were major reasons for the decision.
Hillesland said board members had concerns that the high attendance at the fair could spread Coronavirus.
“If that happened, it would put the school board in a tough position to reopen school this fall.”
He also mentioned that a large spread could result in the shutting down of businesses again.
Hillesland noted the cleaning crew canceled their plans to work during the fair. He said it's a big job to keep the restrooms clean.
Fair officials said that holding the concert and rodeo while having to follow social distancing requirements would result in a loss of almost $100,000.
“It was a real tough decision,” fair board member Tami Christensen said.
Public comment included statements about health and also the challenges that some non-profit groups could have running food booths without elderly people assisting as much as usual. On the other side, residents expressed that America is about personal choice and freedom. Comments included, “This is America, and we need to get over this,” “I don't want to live in fear,” and “It's time to do business as usual.”
4-H leaders and volunteers urged commissioners to allow at least a 4-H Fair. Extension agent Josie Evenson said that 4-H includes 453 students and 120 adult volunteers this year. She noted that students need to learn by doing.
“We're raising kids for the future,” she said.
4-H member Sarah Helmuth said a lot has been taken from senior students this year including athletic seasons and a traditional graduation ceremony. Being at home during the shutdown, students spent more time with their animals than before. She urged commissioners to allow a 4-H only fair.
Commissioner Shane Gorder made the motion to cancel the fair due to the uncertainties the county can not meet to have a safe fair. The motion included having a 4-H only fair. Commissioner Loren Young seconded the motion that passed 2-1.
Gorder said commissioners heard the opinion of many residents. With anticipated attendance of 30,000, Gorder feels maintaining recommended health guidelines would be difficult. He wouldn't want to overburden Sidney Health Center and schools if an outbreak occurred. Gorder said he was elected to do what's right for taxpayers. Reasons for his decision included health issues, law enforcement, finances, cleaning and the elderly.
Young noted the increase of cases throughout Montana played a role in his decision. He said he wants a fair, but he isn't smarter than health officials.
Commissioner Duane Mitchell, who voted against the motion, noted that more people get killed in traffic accidents than by the virus.
“It's just a fictional number,” Mitchell said of Coronavirus. “We're just a bunch of sheep if we don't let this happen. I understand you don't have a cleaning crew, because they bought into these numbers.”