The Dubuque County Fair will be held this year — but it will be briefer than normal.
The fair Board of Directors announced June 17, due to concerns related to COVID-19, they will hold a modified, four-day fair this year.
It is slated for Thursday, July 30, to Sunday, Aug. 2, at the fairgrounds in Dubuque. The event previously was slated to begin on Tuesday, July 28.
Fairgrounds General Manager Kevin Kotz said scheduling, financial and public health concerns all played a role in the board’s decision to reduce the fair from six days to four.
“The health and safety of the community is the highest priority for us in producing this annual fair,” he said. “In the interest of public health, the fair is implementing these guidelines and … changes.”
Among the biggest changes is the elimination of this year’s headliner concerts. This year’s mainstage lineup had included Chris Lane on Thursday night and Skid Row and Queensryche on Friday.
Kotz said seating for those shows would have had to be reduced to 50% capacity to maintain social distancing. The associated reduced ticket sales would have made paying for the bands not financially feasible, he said.
“Financially, the fair had to look at what’s good for the fair association and what’s good for the community,” he said. “It just wasn’t financially feasible for us to put on those big shows, but we still want to give the people something to celebrate.”
The fair still will have live entertainment in the Festival Garden each night featuring local and area bands. When the schedule of bands is finalized, it will be made available at www.dbqfair.com.
People who had purchased tickets for the mainstage shows also should watch the fair website for refund information.
In keeping with tradition, this year’s fair still will offer food and a wide variety of exhibitors.
Other changes to the fair’s operations include the elimination of the carnival, roaming acts, several traditional competitions and many of the children’s games due to concerns about sanitizing and social distancing.
However, events such as the tractor pull, stock car racing and the demolition derby still will be held. In some cases, these events will fill the time slots vacated by the cancellation of mainstage concerts.
The demolition derby, which is traditionally held on Sunday, now will be held on Friday night. The truck-and-tractor pull will be held on Saturday night.
The Sprint/Invaders/Open Wheel Races are slated for Thursday, while the Julien Dubuque Classic Races will be held on the final day of the fair.
Social distancing will be considered when determining ticketing and seating for these events, Kotz said.
“Our stadium holds 8,000 people, so half of that is 4,000 people so they can socially distance,” he said. “And we have 99 acres of fairgrounds to make use of and get people to spread out.”
Kotz said the fair will monitor and limit the number of people on the fairgrounds, but fair board members are working with county health officials to determine what the capacity limit will be.
“I think each family will just have to make a decision to assess their own situation with regards to participation in the fair, and we respect everyone’s decision,” he said.
Sanitizing stations will be available throughout the grounds, and additional signage will be posted to remind fairgoers of the importance of social distancing.
The fair board is working closely with the Dubuque County office of Iowa State University Extension and Outreach in regard to 4-H and FFA activities, Kotz said. Decisions on whether and how those exhibitions will be held will come from the Extension office in the coming weeks.In the end, Kotz said, the decision to downsize and modify the fair was as much to do with fiscal responsibility as it was to do with public health and safety.
“We have to live for another day,” he said. “We have to live for the 2021 fair.”