OGDEN — Life can be unfair, exemplified, perhaps, by the upheaval caused here and everywhere by the COVID-19 pandemic.
But that doesn’t mean the Weber County Fair has to fall by the wayside. In fact, playing on the theme “unfair,” county officials say the annual event will go on, though it will be scaled way back from prior incarnations to guard against the spread of COVID-19. It’s set to go from Aug. 5-8.
“That’s why we’re using the term ‘unfair,’ because COVID is unfair,” said Weber County Commissioner Jim Harvey. Indeed, one of the promotional images for the fair features the silhouette of a cowboy stepping in a brown pile of apparent manure while leading a cow. It reads, “Weber County Unfair/Aug. 5-8”.
As of early June, county officials, while planning to go ahead with the fair in some format, were still unsure exactly how it’d look as the coronavirus situation evolved. Many traditional summer activities around Weber County have been cancelled.
The case count in Weber County and the rest of Utah has jumped in recent weeks, though, and officials ultimately opted to do away with some of the mainstays to guard against uncontrollable crowds that could potentially spur new COVID-19 cases. Gone will be the food vendors, commercial booths and exhibition areas that would typically spread out across the fairgrounds property. The annual smash-up derby, too, is a casualty.
Still around, though, will be the rodeo and the Junior Livestock Show. Likewise, an Indian relay race event will return and there will be a “truck bed concert” featuring a big-name act that has yet to be publicly named, Harvey said. “While there won’t be any other events or exhibits, we’re thrilled to have you come and attend any of these four for a fantastic time,” Ashton Wilson, the fair manager, said in a Facebook message to promote the event.
The decision to scale the fair back was a tough one. Commissioner Scott Jenkins said the fact that Utah State Fair organizers are scaling back that event was of some comfort. Commissioner Gage Froerer noted the evolving guidelines and recommendations on activity as the COVID-19 case count has waxed and waned.
“It hasn’t been easy. It’s been a moving target,” Froerer said.
Precautionary measures are planned at fair events, including distancing of spectators and participants, to guard against the spread of COVID-19. Organizers have worked with the Weber-Morgan Health Department in planning.
Harvey, for his part, shied from saying masks are a must. “We’re not using the word mandate, but we are asking people to use a mask,” he said.
Language on the county’s ticketing website for fair events, though, was less flexible. “Social distancing guidelines will be applied throughout all of our events and masks are mandatory,” it reads.
According to the schedule of events listed online, the fair rodeo is planned for Aug. 5 and will be held in the Outdoor Stadium. The Indian relay races, featuring Native Americans displaying their horsemanship skills, will be held Aug. 7 and 8. The Junior Livestock Show, featuring steer, hogs, lambs and goats raised by kids and teens, will be held Aug. 5, 6 and 7, with the auction of the animals on Aug. 8.
The “truck bed concert” will be held Aug. 8 in an open parking area on the west side of the fairgrounds complex. Spectators will park in the area, setting up chairs in the beds of their trucks — hence the name — or on the ground around their vehicles, Harvey said.
The size of the facilities where the varied events are to be held and the limited number of activities will allow for social distancing. “This is a great compromise under our existing circumstances,” Harvey said.
Officials had secured the participation of a carnival in the fair, featuring rides and games, but the deal had to be canceled due to COVID-19 jitters.