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Howard County Fair canceled due to coronavirus; some events and livestock auction will be held online

The 75th annual Howard County Fair, originally scheduled for Aug. 8 to 15, has been canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Howard County Fair board of directors announced Wednesday.

“After a much-discussed, difficult decision, the 2020 Howard County Fair has been canceled,” a post on the Howard County Fairgrounds’ website reads.

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The Howard County Fairgrounds have been closed since March when Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan put a stay-at-home order in place to help stop the spread of COVID-19. As businesses and restaurants have been allowed to reopen as some restrictions have been lifted, the fairgrounds have remained closed to the public.

Popular events such as the Maryland Sportsman and Outdoor Show, Howard County Antique Farm Equipment Auction, and Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival have already been canceled or postponed in the past few months at the fairgrounds.

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“Myself and the board were very much looking forward to this year’s fair. It was going to be our 75th anniversary fair, which would have been a big deal for us. But with all of the events surrounding the COVID-19 virus, we thought it was best for the safety of all to not have the fair activities this year,” Mickey Day, president of the Howard County Fair board of directors, said in an interview.

“We looked at a lot of options, especially with how to socially distance people. It’s usually very crowded, and that was something we didn’t think we’d be able to overcome,” Day said. “… The concern really changed in the last few weeks because there have been some more outbreaks around the country. We surely don’t want to see outbreaks here, and we don’t want to contribute to that.”

As of Wednesday, there have been at least 2,723 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Howard County, according to the state Department of Health. There have been at least 87 deaths.

According to the post, there will be a handful of online events, including the annual livestock auction. However, these will be private events and will require registration.

The fair’s popular livestock sale will open online to bidders on Aug. 13 and close Aug. 14. Prospective buyers can register and bid at auctions.thewendtgroup.com/auction/9112.

There also will be youth livestock shows for young people, including those who had already registered projects with the Howard County 4-H and/or FFA program. The plan is for a series of one-day shows, which would limit the number of participants and animals on the grounds at any time.

The youth livestock shows will be presented by the Howard County Fair Association with the assistance of volunteers, and they are not affiliated with the University of Maryland Extension or considered a Howard County 4-H sanctioned event, according to the registration website.

In an effort to offer a similar opportunity to youth who have projects other than livestock, an online platform has been set up for them to display their 4-H projects to be judged.

Registration is available at hcfmd.fairwire.com. The deadline for youth livestock shows is July 20 and Aug. 1 for the virtual 4-H indoor entries.

“We start planning for the next fair one month after the [previous] fair ends. A lot of hard work goes into it. We have hundreds of volunteers who help us put this event on. This is a big let-down for all of us. We dragged this [decision] out as long as we could. It was a very tough decision,” Day said.

The Maryland State Fair, scheduled for Aug. 27 to Sept. 7 at the Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium, is still planned to take place. The Great Frederick Fair and Anne Arundel County Fair also are planned to go on as scheduled.

Fairs in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties have already been canceled for this year, in addition to the Harford County Farm Fair.

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Baltimore Sun Media editor Katie V. Jones contributed to this article.

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