GREAT FALLS — Cascade County Commissioners met on Tuesday to discuss whether or not to cancel the Montana State Fair due to COVID-19 restrictions and concerns.
During a public meeting that was broadcast via Zoom, the commissioners voted to cancel the fair.
The fair was scheduled to run July 24th through August 1st at Montana ExpoPark in Great Falls.
Susan Shannon, the general manager of Montana ExpoPark, gave a presentation and explained the pros and cons of having the event. They went over all the extra precautions that would be required in terms of increased sanitization, social-distancing guidelines, and how 14-day quarantine would work for guests coming in and out the fair. They also noted that, on average, between 8,000 and 9,000 people go in and out of ExpoPark each day of the fair.
Commissioners took heard public comments and questions during the meeting. Ultimately, the commissioners decided that the risks and added layers of health and safety protocols outweighed the benefits of having the fair this year.
Commissioner Jane Weber commented, "It would be a much changed state fair, and I think we could do better by sprucing up the grounds, sprucing up the buildings, and getting some projects accomplished with the taxpayer money, so we are bigger and better next year."
They also explained that making any plans would require Phase Three of the state re-opening plan to be activated; Governor Steve Bullock announced on Tuesday afternoon that the state would move into Phase Two on June 1st, and there is no estimate on when Phase Three might be implemented.
Scores of summer events across Montana have already been canceled due to the restrictions, including concerts and rodeos.
News of the cancellation has brought a range of reactions on our Facebook page; here are several of the comments:
- Kirsten Steele: "I feel bad for the vendors but the fair has been struggling for years."
- Mickey Miller: "Absolutely unbelievably ridiculous"
- Vivian Pankratz: "I realize a lot of us love the fair, but when you look at all of the vendors and carnival workers who are from out of state, and travel from state to state, it's truly the right thing to do."
- Deb Oldfield: "It was the right thing to do."
- Lynette Scriver-Colburn: "I listened to the meeting, and the presentation made was insightful and thoughtful. The commissioners did not take this decision lightly. I believe it was the correct decision for the situation we're in."
- Nancy Lemire: "I feel sorry for the rodeo contestants, main source of income for a lot of them"
- Jen Dailey: "People can stand shoulder to shoulder at Yellowstone Park, shop next to each other at retail stores, go swimming together at Fairmont and go to ballgames but cancel rodeos and fairs?"
- Bre Hylla: "it’s definitely better to be safe than sorry with everything going on at the moment. especially with people who come from out of state for the fair also."
We will update you if we get more details.