Deerfield Fair – the last state fair of the season – cancels for 2020

  • Kaylee Bennett of Pembroke gets ready for her blacksmithing demonstation on Thursday, September 27, 2018 at the Deerfield Fair. Bennett was trained at the Heartland Horseshowing School and has a farrier service in the area. The fair runs through Sunday. GEOFF FORESTER

  • Steve Geddes from Boscawen set a new record for growing the largest pumpkin in North America. His ginormous gourd weighed in Thursday night at the Deerfield Fair at 2,528 pounds. The old United States record was 2,360 pounds. Courtesy

  • People ride Pharaoh’s Fury at the midway at the Deerfield Fair at sunset on Thursday, September 27, 2018. Fair opened on Thursday and runs through Sunday. GEOFF FORESTER

  • Max Schaffer, 3, of Barrington, gets ready to drive around a ride at the Deerfield Fair on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2016. ELODIE REED

Monitor staff
Published: 6/24/2020 4:42:16 PM

The Deerfield Fair – the last New Hampshire county or agricultural fairs held each season and one of the final holdouts against COVID-19 – fell victim to the virus and won’t be held in 2020.

The decision to cancel due to public health concerns was ultimately a “no-brainer,” said fair Vice President Richard Pitman, since many of the fair’s vendors, entertainers and participating organizations had already pulled out or asked organizers to cancel and hold their spots for next year.

“There really wouldn’t have been much of a fair, it would have been horrible compared to the reputation we have for being the finest family agricultural fair,” Pitman said. “There just wouldn’t be anything for people to see.”

The fair’s board of officers and directors met two weeks ago and voted unanimously to cancel the 2020 festivities, but the final decision was up to the fair’s members. At a meeting of the members Tuesday night, a vote of 105-5 – the largest turnout for a summer meeting in recent history – made the decision to cancel official.

In recent months, popular children’s entertainment at the fair, including the 4-H organization and Future Farmers of America, have called off all their summer activities. The company that provides the fair’s amusement rides had no other events this season and wouldn’t be taking the machines out of storage. On top of that, the petting zoo and circus which are usually hired for the fair were unavailable, meaning almost none of the usual entertainment would be left for the thousands of visitors the fair usually attracts annually.

The fair’s grounds will still be rented out to private events, which means the giant pumpkin weigh-off, the horse and cow shows, an antiques market and a car show will probably still go on this season on the 229-acre lot.

Pitman said the Deerfield Fair will need to take $500,000 out of its “rainy-day” fund to cover insurance, taxes, and repairs to the grounds, but that doesn’t mean that next year’s fair will be any less extravagant than usual – in 2019, over 125,000 people visited over the course of the fair’s four days of festivities, making it one of the largest gatherings in the state.

“It can’t get much bigger than it got last year,” he said. “We’re not looking to expand, we just want to maintain the quality that we’re known for.”

Pitman said that if social distancing measures were to stay in place, it would not be financially feasible to open the fair’s gates in 2020 to smaller-than-usual crowds.

“It isn’t worth it to have someone get COVID while they’re there,” he said, adding the fair wants to protect its visitors and staff, as well as the local police officers who serve as fair security each year.

Pitman said that the community understands and supports the decision to postpone until next year.

“We’re getting a lot of positive feedback that as much as people were looking forward to the finest fair in the state, they know it shouldn’t happen,” he said.

According to the New Hampshire Fairs Association website, the North Haverhill Fair will be “going virtual” on July 22-26, and the Rochester Fair – which is usually scheduled for September – has yet to make a decision on whether to cancel this year.

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