State Fairs in 2020: Decisions No One Wants to Make

( Linde's Livestock Photography )

For the time being, state fairs are going to look different, they’re going to feel different and they’re just going to be different, explains Spencer Morris, livestock director at the Indiana State Fairgrounds and Event Center.

“Whatever the reason is for someone to attend or not to attend in 2020, we understand,” Morris says. 

In his role at the Indiana State Fair, Morris says the degree of flexibility and understanding that he has had to develop this year has been mind-boggling. In June, the Indiana State Fair canceled, but organized a modified 4-H livestock and project showcase to allow youth the opportunity to exhibit their 4-H projects. 

Although finances weren’t the reason for the Wisconsin State Fair’s decision to cancel in 2020, Brian Bolan, agriculture director at the Wisconsin State Fair, says it certainly was a factor in their decision.

The state fair is a different economic model than other livestock shows, Bolan explains.

“Our fair budget, for the agricultural programs that I administer, is around $1.5 million. That's the investment that the fair puts into the agriculture shows and the competitions. So, without the revenue generated from the 1.1 million people that come in the fair park, obviously, my budget would need to look much different,” Bolan says. 

The Wisconsin State Fair did a survey that showed that only 30% of the general population that typically attends the state fair was confident they would attend this year. After running some economic reports, they realized the needed to have closer to 45% attendance to keep things afloat. 

“When you start to do all the math of what would have to change financially, it became very challenging for us,” Bolan adds. “And we did not want to raise entry fees and make the kids come up with all those extra costs and stuff. So, so financially it was a factor in the decision.”

Bolan and Morris discuss the decisions surrounding the cancellation of the Wisconsin State Fair and the Indiana State Fair as well as their thoughts on the future of livestock shows on Overhe(a)rd, a Farm Journal podcast, with guest host Jennifer Shike, editor of Farm Journal’s PORK.

Here’s a map of the latest state fair cancellations:

Farm Journal has been reporting on the state fair and major livestock show cancellations this year. Here's a quick look at the top stories in case you missed them.

Overhe(a)rd: Livestock Show Cancellations & Lessons Learned
Oklahoma Youth Expo's President of Onward Endowment Tyler Norvell and National Swine Registry CEO Clay Zwilling chat about COVID-19's impact on youth livestock shows this year and their thoughts on what's ahead.

Will COVID-19 Forever Change Livestock Shows?
Industry leaders weigh in on COVID-19's impact on livestock events and what's ahead for youth livestock shows.

State Fair Cancellations Shatter Dreams Across the Country
Heartbreaking. In one word, that’s how Kamryn Kreis, 18, describes the announcement that the Ohio State Fair had been canceled for 2020. This was not how her last year of showing pigs at state fair was supposed to go.

10 Realities Fairs Must Face Due to COVID-19
Regardless of a fair’s size, here are 10 factors fairs are facing when making the decision to move ahead or cancel in 2020.

Iowa State Fair Cancels for First Time Since World War II
The Iowa State Fair Board voted 11-to-2 to cancel this summer’s event due to COVID-19. This is the first time since World War II that the Iowa State Fair will not take place. 

Indiana State Fair Canceled, Plans for Modified Youth Livestock Show
The Indiana State Fair is the latest of the state fairs to cancel for 2020. But youth livestock exhibitors in Indiana have a reason to be excited and have hope.

The Show Will Go On at the Missouri State Fair
Countless fairs, festivals and expositions have been canceled for 2020 – but not the Missouri State Fair. It will be held as scheduled on August 13 to 23, however, organizers say it will look a little different. 

Illinois State Fair Cancels, Offers Youth Show in September
Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker will issue an Executive Order on June 12 canceling the Illinois and Du Quoin State Fairs for 2020. However, youth exhibitors will still have a chance to showcase their hard work in September.

Colorado State Fair Announces "Reimagined" Event
The Colorado State Fair announced a “reimagined” 2020 event in light of the ongoing COVID-19 public health crisis.

New Group Backs Online Livestock Auctions for Youth Amidst Pandemic
Michigan-based non-profit supports livestock auction opportunities for youth swine, cattle and sheep exhibitors in Illinois, Kansas, Michigan and Missouri.