Tunbridge World's Fair called off for 3rd time in nearly 150 years

Published: May. 25, 2020 at 5:09 PM EDT
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Fair season is on hiatus in Vermont, on orders from Gov. Phil Scott. That includes the Tunbridge World's Fair which has been a tradition for nearly 150 years. Our Adam Sullivan went to Tunbridge to see how the community is reacting to the news.

The Tunbridge World's Fair has run consecutively for the past 148 years except for on two occasions: the pandemic of 1918 and a short span during World War II. Unfortunately, 2020 is now being added to that list.

"The Tunbridge Fair has been canceled for 2020," said Alan Howe, the fair president.

With a heavy heart, Howe made the announcement. The fairgrounds were empty in the background.

"It's hard," he said. "The fair affects everybody."

The dates for this year's fair remain posted on the sign at the top of the hill. But a different sign-- "please quarantine"-- also now greets visitors driving by.

"It is very mixed. On one hand, I am going to miss it. But I think we have to buck up and do the right thing and that is the right thing to do," said Brenda Field, the Tunbridge emergency management director.

The midway is often packed with fairgoers during the four-day event in September, many traveling from out of state. It's also crawling with kids showing off their animals and getting a hands-on lesson in agriculture, which this fair is known for. It's got a little something for everyone.

"The food and the friends. You run into people all the time," said Elaine Ives of Royalton.

Ives is bummed the family tradition is canceled this year, but she understands why.

"Especially if there is another influx of it in the fall. You got to really be careful," she said.

Elaine's son Justin plays an active role every September. The Tunbridge World's Fair can also bring you back in time.

"I've been working down on antique hill for about five years now," Justin Ives said. "We are definitely going to miss it. We spend a lot of time down there during the fair but you can't really ask for them to go on with it."

Now, it's on to next year.

"I think so," Howe said. "Hopefully."

2021 would have been the fair's 150th year. A grand celebration, however, now it is likely to have added significance for those craving the fair experience.