Friday, July 31st, 2020
Mercer County Fair officials drop concerts
By William Kincaid
CELINA - Mercer County Fair officials have been forced to drop the country and Christian concerts from this year's fair schedule due to Gov. Mike DeWine's recent order prohibiting rides, games and grandstand events.
Fair officials had secured marquee acts Sawyer Brown and BlackHawk for the Aug. 14 country concert and Grammy Award-winning For King and Country for the Aug. 15 Christian concert.
Those concerts have been scrapped in light of DeWine's announcement. Officials are looking into the possibility of rescheduling the concerts for the 2021 fair, fair manager Cara Muhlenkamp said.
"If we are able to reschedule the same performers for 2021 we certainly would honor the tickets sold in '19-'20," she said. "We are currently looking into how the refund policy will work. Our hopes are to have information out to the public later next week."
Fair officials have cemented their reputation as providers of top-notch country music concerts over the years, booking Neal McCoy, Joe Diffie and Walker Hayes in 2018; The Brothers Osborne and Granger Smith in 2017; Gary Allan and Ray Scott in 2016; Josh Thompson, Craig Campbell and Eric Paslay in 2015; Rodney Atkins and The Swon Brothers in 2014; and Joe Nichols and Angie Johnson in 2013.
Last year's star-studded country concert found Montgomery Gentry and Phil Vassar performing for roughly 4,000 people, with 91% of tickets sold.
As far as the status of other musical acts and performers originally scheduled to play the beer garden and entertainment tent this year, Muhlenkamp said she won't know until DeWine releases details about his mandate, which she hopes happens today.
"As you know, the Fair received surprising orders on Tuesday to limit Fair activities. This has put us in the position of having to react and develop solutions," according to a Mercer County Fair news release from Thursday. "The State has not released guidelines and all we know is what was spoken in the press conference."
Board members as of Thursday afternoon are certain only that children in 4-H and FFA will be able to show their projects at the fair.
"The Senior Fair Board and Staff are working hard to make the 2020 Fair the best under the current directives," the release states. "The schedule for the 2020 Fair is still being determined and our hopes are to be able to announce something next week once the directives are received."
DeWine on Tuesday announced that county fairs will be reduced to junior fairs featuring livestock competitions for children and teens, without the usual rides, games and grandstand events, according to The Associated Press.
Despite fair officials' best efforts so far, it had become obvious this year's fairs can't go on normally because of the pandemic, the Republican governor said. The change, which DeWine called a "difficult decision," takes effect today.
The announcement limits fairs to livestock competitions and 4-H and other events for children and teens. It also allows harness racing without spectators.
"We've seen several fairs that have been doing an excellent job to keep fair-goers safe, yet other fairs have been connected to outbreaks; some have disregarded social distancing; and we've also seen a lack of enforcement of the statewide mask order. It's just a real shame," DeWine said. "Because it is becoming increasingly clear that we cannot have a regular, safe fair in the summer of 2020, I believe we must now scale fairs back."