HARRINGTON, Del. — When Gov. John Carney in late March issued a stay-at-home-order for Delaware, Danny Aguilar, assistant general manager and director of marketing for the Delaware State Fair, got a strong sense the fair, then three months away, could be drastically altered due to the coronavirus outbreak.
For the following two and a half months, fair staff and its board of directors worked with state and local officials to develop its COVID-19 plan, a lengthy set of protocols and rules put in place to protect health and safety.
“The hard part is this is all uncharted water. As anytime something would change, it would change several other things,” Aguilar said in a recent telephone interview about the unprecedented planning process.
The fair gained state approval of its plan in late June and has proceeded to implement the safety measures across the grounds.
Measures for social distancing will be taken throughout the fair, Aguilar said, and wearing facial coverings will be required to enter the fair property and use its shuttles from the parking lots. Wearing facial coverings will be required for fairgoers over the age of 12, strongly encouraged for children 3 through 12, and children 2 years old and younger must not wear coverings due to the risk of suffocation.
Aguilar said the fair has heavily increased its number of hand sanitizing and warm water hand washing stations throughout the fair and each night after it closes, fair staff will sanitize high traffic and high touch areas throughout the grounds. Fair employees and carnival staff will be temperature-checked daily, Aguilar said, and messaging on the fair’s website and at the entrance will strongly encourage fairgoers who show symptoms of illness to not come to the fair. The fair’s complete COVID-19 plan is available online at https://www.delawarestatefaircovid.com/covid-19.
“It’s going to look different,” Aguilar said. “We understand it’s going to look different. We’re looking forward to putting on a great event and doing so safely and responsibly.”
In an effort to manage the overall daily fair crowd, the fair created an incentive structure for gate admission. People entering the fair from 8 to 11 a.m. will have free admission, those entering from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. will have half price admission and after 4 p.m. will have full admission cost.
“It is our goal to flatten the arrival curve of folks coming into the Delaware State Fairgrounds,” Aguilar said in a June 24 Facebook Live video.
Livestock shows will operate on a “modified schedule” Aguilar said, with some animals entering and leaving on the same day and others staying for a just a portion of the fair. Beef and Dairy cattle will split time at the fair and the same for swine and sheep entries. Some livestock shows will have restricted seating and be limited in who can watch in person but have a live-streaming component available online.
The daily parade on the fair and the popular Livestock Extravaganza were also taken off the schedule. The annual Junior Livestock Auction will be virtual, held July 31 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. For bidding information, visit https://delawarestatefair.com/junior-livestock-auction/