A new look: Northeast fairs adapt to COVID-19 for 2021 season

Connecticut

(WTNH) — It’s that time of the year again. Festivals across the state are back after last year’s COVID-19 pandemic shutdown. But you can expect some changes. The health and safety of fairgoers and vendors will be the top priority with the recent resurgence of contagious COVID variants.

Some fairs will be offering advance, online ticket sales to alleviate congestion at ticket booths.

Joe DeLorenzo with the Association of Connecticut Fairs says the layout of the fairgrounds may be different, too. Fairgoers have already seen some of the changes in place.

The Milford Oyster Festival eliminated amusement rides and a children’s area this year. Also, proof of COVID-19 vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test was also required to enter the main stage concert area.

There were also no rides at the Lebanon Fair after a ride operator backed out due to staffing issues and COVID restrictions.

At the Brooklyn Fair, sanitizing and hand washing stations were placed throughout the fairgrounds. There was also a booth providing COVID vaccinations.

WEB EXTRA: DeLorenzo speaks to the changes to entertainment fairgoers can expect this year,

The Guilford Fair is “back and better than ever,” according to The Guilford Agricultural Society (GAS).

Barbara Puffer, of the GAS, says their mantra quickly became, “be ready to pivot.” The leadership and department heads were brainstorming options if they needed to change course and accommodate new regulations and guidelines at any given point.

Plexi-glass dividers have been erected in some busy public-facing places to protect volunteers and visitors. Ticket sellers will be separated. Sanitation stations will be increased. The effort to ensure restroom cleanliness will be doubled. The Gilford Fair will be open Sept. 17-19.

And over in Glastonbury, the Apple festival scheduled for Oct. 15-17 will also be following state COVID safety recommendations. “If masks are mandated [by the state] it will be enforced,” according to Chip McCabe, AH&MF Entertainment Director.

There will be no craft Vendor Village this year due to construction on the field. McCabe says prior to COVID, the festival averaged 23,00-25,000 people per year. “The impact last year was significant both for the Chamber and the town. It was also a significant financial loss to local food trucks, vendors, local bands, the carnival ride company, and everyone else involved.”

The Connecticut Renaissance Faire is now open through Oct. 17th. Guests are encouraged to bring hand sanitizers. Facemasks are not required for outdoor events, but the website has this advice for fairgoers; “we understand that risk cannot be wholly mitigated and encourage anyone who is immunocompromised, 65-plus, or just too nervous to attend our event to remain at home.”

Additional upcoming fairs to enjoy:

  • Berlin Sept. 17-19
  • Bethlehem Fair Sept. 10-12
  • Durham Sept. 23-26
  • Four Town Fair (Somers) Sept. 16-19
  • Harwinton Fair Oct. 1-3
  • Hebron Harvest Fair Sept. 9-12
  • North Haven Sept. 9-12
  • Orange Country Fair Sept. 18-19
  • Portland Oct. 1-3
  • Southington Apple Harvest Festival Oct. 1-3 / 8-10
  • Wapping Fair Sept. 9-12

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Just over the state border in Massachusetts, The Big E is being held Sept. 17 – Oct. 3. West Springfield’s Board of Health has just mandated masks be worn indoors which includes the Big E.

Masks will also be required in other areas regardless of vaccination status:

  • First aid stations, including office areas, and any area in which first aid is being administered.
  • Public Safety and other personnel assisting with first aid or similar emergencies.
  • Unvaccinated guests are encouraged to continue to wear masks while on the fairgrounds.
  • If you are sick or have been in the last 24 hours it’s suggested you not attend.

According to Rebecca Eddy, of CT Dept. of Economic & Community Development, many exhibitors in the agricultural area suffered an economic loss last year but it did lead to other opportunities.

There are dozens of Connecticut businesses and artisans that rely on the Connecticut to expand awareness of their brand and products, generate sales, and build their customer base. It is a significant sales opportunity for some.

Most Connecticut vendors report that Big E sales account for up to 20% of its annual revenue. For some smaller vendors, that number can be as much as 80%. Beyond that, the Connecticut building is a microcosm of our great state; it celebrates the history, agriculture, food, and fun that makes Connecticut such a great place to live and visit.

Last year, Connecticut Building vendors got creative and pivoted to online experiences and sales—we created an online marketplace for people to browse on CTvisit.com.”

Christine Castonguay, interim director of Connecticut Office of Tourism

A few fairs and festivals fell victim, once again, to COVID this year.

Middletown’s Fireworks Festival was originally scheduled around July 4 and then rescheduled to early September has since been fully canceled. Middletown Mayor Ben Florsheim cited the uptick in COVID-19 cases as the reason saying, “the safety of the community is my highest priority.”

RELATED: Middletown annual fireworks festival canceled due to uptick in COVID cases

The Bridgewater Volunteer Fire Department decided early this year not to hold its Bridgewater Country Fair citing the safety of its members, volunteers, and community.

For more information on fairs across the state visit http://www.ctagfairs.org/

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