Vermont fairs and field days consider cancellations

Published: Apr. 29, 2020 at 4:52 PM EDT
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The region's fairs and field days are a time-honored tradition and a time for communities to come together, something we are all supposed to be avoiding right now. So what does the pandemic mean for Vermont's 14 county fairs that start in July?

Renee Portaeau and her business partner just purchased a "Melted Cheesiere" booth in anticipation of fair season. "Will be our first season here," Portaeau said.

They make their living selling locally-sourced grilled cheese at fairs and festivals around the state, but as they are moving into a new location, they have concerns about whether they be able to open up here.

"We are worried, of course like everybody else, that it might not happen," Portaeau said.

And they not alone. The Champlain Fair is the biggest annual fundraiser for the Essex Junction Lions Club. "The 10 best days of summer brings in several thousands of dollars, so we can reinvest that back into the community," said the club's Carmelle Terborgh.

But the future is uncertain because the fair is about crowds, not physical distancing. And some are already calling it quits. Jackie Folsom with the Vermont Fairs and Field Days Association says the Connecticut Valley Fair in Bradford in July is canceled. The Lamoille, Franklin and Deefield Fairs are expected to decide Friday whether to go on as scheduled. The Champlain Valley and Caledonia Fairs hope to have an answer by June 1st. Addison is planned for mid-August and won't make a decision until the week before.

"In my heart of hearts I hope our fairs can be a bright spot for all Vermonters," Folsom said.

She says organizers worry about a domino effect if some cancel now. "If some of them are cancelled in another state -- they run what we call circuits, they go from fair to fair to fair, so they always have something going on during the week. And if enough fairs are canceled in other areas, it might become too expensive for our fairs to afford that amusement company coming in," Folsom said.

She says fairs contribute more than $100,000 into state coffers through sales tax and spur another $2 million in spending in their communities.

As for vendors like Portaeau, they are hoping that the show goes on. "We are keeping our fingers crossed and we have faith that it will all come together," Portaeau said.

Festivals are in trouble too. St. Albans canceled it's Maple Fest earlier this spring. And In Enosburgh Falls, they've already called off the 64th annual Vermont Dairy Festival set for June.

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