Members of the Eastern Idaho State Fair board met with Bingham County commissioners and Blackfoot city representatives at the fairgrounds Thursday to discuss plans for the 2020 fair in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The meeting was reportedly contentious at times. At press time Thursday, the discussion was continuing with no official decision being reached. The Bingham News Chronicle will provide an update on any decision online through the website or Facebook.
The Bannock County Fair & Rodeo in Downey has joined a growing list of regional county fairs that have elected to cancel this summer due to the threat of the coronavirus.
However, judging of children’s 4-H projects, which usually takes place in conjunction with the fair in Downey, will likely be allowed to proceed.
The Bannock County Fair & Rodeo was originally scheduled for Aug. 3 through Aug. 8. The Bannock County Fair Board opted to cancel the fair on Tuesday, while still making accommodations for children to complete their 4-H projects.
“(The Fair Board) worked really hard and they tried to come up with programs and how to do it, but they didn’t want to put on a partial fair,” said Bannock County Commissioner Ernie Moser. “They say they’re coming back in 2021 bigger and better.”
Guy Patterson, Bannock County business manager and events director, said 4-H organizers will work with Southeastern Idaho Public Health to develop a safe contingency plan for wrapping up 4-H projects.
The Caribou County Fair and the Bear Lake County Fair have also canceled, though Bear Lake County also still plans to host its 4-H and FFA shows only. The Franklin County Fair and the Oneida County Fair are both still scheduled to be hosted from Aug. 10 through Aug. 15. Power County officials could not be reached to offer an update.
As for the region’s largest fair — Blackfoot’s Eastern Idaho State Fair — organizers are still planning to forge ahead as originally scheduled from Sept. 4 through Sept. 12. Nonetheless, they’ve reported logistical challenges with booking and retaining acts and attractions due to the pandemic.
“I know they’re making every effort humanly possible to do it,” said Chad Hammond, who is president of IE Productions in Idaho Falls and is in charge of marketing and entertainment procurement for the fair.
Hammond said organizers are working with public health officials in their planning.
“There are a lot of moving parts with this, especially with the entertainment this year,” Hammond said.
Musical acts for the Eastern Idaho State Fair have yet to be announced and should have been made public a couple of weeks ago, Hammond said. Hammond said one of the planned major acts under contract recently backed out due to COVID-19, and the fair is seeking a replacement act. Hammond said the fair is also working to renegotiate contracts with other acts. He explained the fair made agreements with expensive musical groups, and it would be difficult to host financially solvent concerts while limiting seating to ensure spectators maintain at least 6 feet of space from one another in the crowd.
Hammond said the events that are currently booking entertainment are scheduled for no earlier than September, and the Eastern Idaho State Fair is fortunate to be scheduled for later in the summer.