Board decides the coronavirus threat ‘left us no alternative’
LYNDEN — The 2020 Northwest Washington Fair is cancelled.
That tough decision of surrender to the COVID-19 virus was a unanimous call by the fair’s 12-member board of directors at a meeting Monday, and was announced early Thursday, April 30.
Board president Nate Kleindel said the Northwest Washington Fair is normally a chance for the community to come together and celebrate individual and collective achievements, but cannot be this year. “We are saddened that the current circumstances have left us no alternative,” he said.
Fair staff will look at other ways to make memories this summer and fall, said manager Jim Baron.
“We’re still committed to achieving our mission, including agricultural education, competition and bringing people together,” Baron said. “What that looks like is yet to be determined, but with the board’s informed vote we are now able to devote staff resources to developing new events and activities to be held at the fairgrounds once it is deemed safe to do so.”
Across its 100-plus years, the Lynden fair has been cancelled before only in 1931-33 during the Great Depression and again in 1942-45 during World War II.
The contagion of a global disease without a cure is the culprit now.
“It’s a bummer. None of us want this. All of us want an excellent fair,” said assistant manager Chris Pickering about calling off a Lynden August tradition.
Ultimately, the recommendation of the Whatcom County Health Department that all local summer public events and festivals be cancelled carried the most weight in the decision process, Pickering said.
A fair is all about gathering people together, and that goes against the “social distancing” that continues to be mandated to beat the spread of the coronavirus, he said.
Lynden fair management was in consultation with other fairs on what they are thinking, and although the Northwest Washington cancellation is among the first announced in the state, Pickering said it was felt to be urgent in order to give the many participants in the fair an early answer.
From preparing a car for the Demo Derby to youths raising a project animal, there are huge implications for various people’s involvement in the Lynden fair, he noted.
As to the two-day Lynden PRCA Rodeo and other grandstand entertainment, there was discussion with organizations or agents, and “force majeur” provisions in contracts do apply to get out of obligations in this unusual COVID-19 situation of 2020.
“It’s devastating. It’s not what we want to do,” Pickering said.
The fair remains committed to its values of promoting youth, agriculture, community and tradition, but this year it cannot happen in the normal sense, he said.
Beyond the six-day August fair, the Front Street fairgrounds has already been shut down for weeks to hosted events such as horse shows, car clubs, weddings and such — with staffing reduced as well. Although the budget will “take a hit” this year, “the fair will survive,” Pickering said.
The coronavirus is shutting down other high-profile events for 2020, among them the Calgary Stampede and the California State Fair.
The focus already shifts to the dates Aug. 16-21, 2021, and it may be possible to rebook some of what was lined up for 2020, Pickering said. Those included rapper/singer Nelly and young singer/ventriloquist Darci Lynne Farmer. Some of the country artists who would have been part of a new Saturday Party in the Dust evening had not even been announced yet.