IONIA, Mich. (WOOD) — The Ionia Free Fair will not happen this summer.
Organizers announced Friday that they decided to call off the annual fair, which had been scheduled to run July 16 to July 25 this year. It would have been the 105th event.
The fair’s board of directors cited concerns about coronavirus in their decision to cancel. They said it would be difficult for the event, which draws some 300,000 people each year, to maintain all the health practices necessary to control the spread of coronavirus.
“Even if all current restrictions were lifted, we struggled with the fact that the Fair would have to take into account some sense of social distancing, and then the question of how to ensure that all the rides were being properly disinfected on a regular basis. These practices are all new to us, yet they have become the norm,” board President Lisa Sanford said in a statement. “The safety and health of our community were paramount in our decision.”
The board had talked about downsizing the fair, but ultimately said there were “too many factors beyond our control” to make that viable.
“Ever since the shutdown we’ve taken a look at things and said we need to look at what we can do because we really want to have a fair if we can. We looked at making it smaller, we looked at other things we could possibly do, and we decided by this week we needed to decide something,” said Keith Hesche, member of the Ionia Free Fair Board of Directors.
“(It was a) Really heartbreaking and difficult decision. The fair is so important to so many people. Like so many other community events, it brings people together,” he added.
While the fair has started late or ended early a few times in recent years, usually due to weather conditions, organizers say this is the first time it has been canceled outright since World War II.
You can get fair food at the free fair grounds this weekend. On Saturday and Sunday from noon to 8 p.m., you’ll be able to drive up, get in line for the booth you want in your car and have your favorite junk food brought to you. The food led to long lines of cars last weekend.
Coronavirus has led to the cancellation of several big events around the state this summer including the National Cherry Festival in Traverse City in July, the Grandville Fourth of July Celebration and the Mackinac Bridge Walk in September.
The Ionia Free Fair promises to return next summer, “stronger, more vibrant and ready for a community-wide celebration that will more than make up for this year,” Sanford said.
“We will have things in coming weeks that we can share. As time goes on and as things open up we get back to normal, we hope that we can share things that we’ll be able to do and like other businesses, we’ll be streamlining and making things hopefully even better,” Hesche said.