Reopening Ohio: Area state lawmakers are pushing DeWine to allow county fairs

Reopening Ohio: Area state lawmakers are pushing DeWine to allow county fairs

COLUMBUS — State lawmakers from the Miami Valley are hoping local county fairs do not suffer the same fate as the Ohio State Fair, which has been canceled as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.

They are asking Gov. Mike DeWine to allow local fairs to operate this summer with restrictions to keep people safe.

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State Rep. Kyle Koehler, R-Springfield, is a non-voting member of the State Fair board. He told News Center 7 that with the massive size of the state fair, the concern of possible spread of the virus and the uncertainty of what could come this summer, the shutdown of the fair was unavoidable.

“This is a very complicated process... a lot of contracts to be signed and the biggest fear I think the board had is what happens when the fair is shut down because of something the state health director does,” Koehler said.

Koehler is Ohio House Agriculture Committee chairman. Earlier this week he held a hearing on the county fair issue, taking testimony from local fair authorities. They are pushing for a full fair with restrictions like fewer rides, social distancing and more sanitizing of equipment and common areas. Koehler supports their position.

State Rep. Jena Powell, R-Arcanum is a member of that committee and heard the testimony. She also supports the drive to hold county fairs this year, saying it can be done safely.

“If we are going to be scientific, we need to look at the science and the data. It points to we can open the state and be safe doing so,” Powell said.

Koehler noted that many county fairs are up against tight deadlines to sign or cancel contracts with companies for rides and food service. He said county fair boards need to know by the end of the month at the very latest whether the state will permit them to operate.

An announcement could come at the governor’s next COVID-19 briefing on Tuesday after the holiday weekend.