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NC State Fair canceled in 2020 due to coronavirus

By Gary D. Robertson
Associated Press

RALEIGH — The North Carolina State Fair has been canceled for this year due to safety, financial and attendance challenges from COVID-19, State Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler announced Wednesday.

The fair, which was first held in 1853, is one of the state’s largest annual attractions, bringing in roughly 1 million visitors during its 11-day run that begins in mid-October. The fair was last canceled during World War II. State and regional fairs across the country already have been canceled due to the coronavirus.

“We have hoped, we have prayed and we have schemed, and we have thought and thought and thought,” Troxler said at a news conference, but “after very careful consideration, this is really the only logical decision that we can make.”

Troxler, whose agency oversees the fair, cited safety for patrons, staff and vendors, including the uncertainty of whether current mass gathering restrictions will be eased. Troxler also said a survey of past fair ticket buyers found two-thirds of them would be hesitant to attend a fair this year.

“Our No. 1 priority must be the safety of the public and everyone who enters the fairgrounds,” he said.

The announcement came the same day that state Health and Human Services data showed the number of current COVID-19 patient hosptializations in North Carolina reached another record, now approaching 1,300. Nearly 118,000 positive cases have been reported since the pandemic began, with 1,865 virus-related deaths.

The State Fair costs around $6.8 million to produce annually and doesn’t receive an operating appropriation from the General Assembly. Troxler said the fair can now cancel contracts for this year’s fair without incurring monetary penalties.

The N.C. State Fairgrounds in west Raleigh already has felt the monetary sting from the pandemic. The fair has lost $2.3 million in revenue since February as close to 200 events have been canceled, Troxler said.

Plans will now move ahead for the October 2021 fair, he said. And Troxler said horse and junior livestock shows still will be held at the fairgrounds this October with proper social distancing. There also may be more drive-thru fairgrounds events where motorists can buy food usually sold by N.C. State Fair vendors.

Gov. Roy Cooper recently announced that starting Friday alcohol sales must be shut off nightly at 11 p.m. — rather than the current 2 a.m. — at restaurants, breweries and wineries. He said the restriction is designed to discourage bar-style gatherings that pose higher risks for virus transmission.

A provision in an executive order issued months ago placing a moratorium on residential utility service cutoffs for nonpayment will expire late Wednesday.

An umbrella of advocacy groups asked Cooper on Wednesday to extend the cutoff delay, saying minority and low-income residents will be hurt the most by disconnections during a time of high unemployment and summer heat. Cooper, who signaled weeks ago the moratorium would end this month, said on Tuesday he was assembling a plan to use federal virus relief money to prevent cutoffs and evictions.

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Follow AP coverage of the pandemic at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak  and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.

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