Erie County Fair organizers holding out hope for 2020

Hear how Strates Shows has been impacted by COVID-19 pandemic

Mike Baggerman
May 26, 2020 - 3:00 am

Erie County Fair Train. July 31, 2019 (WBEN Photo/Mike Baggerman)

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WBEN) – Summer events including concerts, sports, other live events have all been notably impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, with some events outright canceled due to the uncertainty of the pandemic.

For now, though, officials from the Erie County Fair are still holding out hope that the fair will happen in 2020.

Since mid-March, the staff of the Erie County Agricultural Society has been working remotely planning and preparing for the 2020 Erie County Fair,” a spokesman for the Erie County Fair said in a statement to WBEN. “Producing the Fair requires a year-round effort from a team that includes volunteers, community partners, independent businesses and first responders. It is our continued hope that we will be able to open the 181st Erie County Fair on August 12th.”

They declined our request for an interview, adding only that they are monitoring the COVID-19 situation and are looking forward to the fair this year.   

But even if the fair runs this year, there may be some changes related to social distancing. It could even impact the experience that you have on rides and concessions.

“We’re probably going to put more space between concessions and between rides,” Jim Strates, owner of Strates Shows, said. “It probably means less on the midway. If you get a busy crowd, you’re going to have lines and people are going to want six feet between people in lines. If those lines get long, they have to go somewhere, so I think we’re going to have to create space for those lines to go somewhere and we’re going to have to manage the queue lines a little better.”

He also floated the idea of having workers wearing face shields and masks, similar to what cashiers do at grocery stores. Strates also said there may be other personal protective equipment worn by employees.

Strates also suggested they may limit the number of people who are allowed on the rides.

None of his ideas are being mandated yet.

Strates said that the pandemic has impacted their business based on how various states are responding. Each state has its own restrictions, meaning there could be gaps in their schedule.

“We go all the way to the Erie County Fair and then to Vermont,” Strates said. “The cost to get to Vermont is so expensive that if the Erie County Fair wasn’t in there, it wouldn’t make sense for us to go to Vermont. It’s not because of something in Florida or Vermont. It’s because there’s another bigger event up there that also pays the bills and helps us get north. It’s not just what is New York doing today, but what is everyone before that doing? Because those are the stepping stones to get up there.”

Strates said they will make every effort to come to the Erie County Fair if the fair is still on.

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