Clearfield salvages some fair favorites
‘Fair Food Court,’ queen contest, livestock sale help out vendors, kids
CLEARFIELD — For the first time since World War II, the Clearfield County Fair was canceled due to restrictions from the COVID-19 pandemic.
It would have been the 160th edition of the fair, but as 2020 continued with the virus not diminishing, it became obvious that the fair board had no choice.
“It was a tough decision, and we held off as long as we possibly could,” Fair Manager Greg Hallstrom said.
Canceling the fair impacts the county’s tourism numbers and summer employment.
The Clearfield County Fair usually sees an average of 100,000 to 120,000 visitors each year, Hallstrom said.
The initial job loss was to the 250 people the fair board usually employs in the parking lots, security, at the barns and as gatekeepers.
Many people plan their vacations around the fair, and others take time off from their regular jobs to work at the fair, Hallstrom said.
It is not known how many teenagers are going unemployed without all the vendors and rides.
The fair board decided to try to salvage as much as it could of the annual gathering by having a “Fair Food Court” at the fairgrounds that featured 29 different vendors sitting up in the grove area during what would have been fair week.
“Normally, we have about 140 food vendors,” Hallstrom said.
For this event, they tried to get a variety of food choices, and this option at least gave people a taste of the fair, Hallstrom said.
A few other fair events went on as scheduled on Aug. 2, including the Clearfield County Fair Queen Contest on Sunday and harness racing on Sunday and Monday.
A junior livestock sale is scheduled for Saturday at the show ring.
“Our fair is all about the agricultural community,” he noted, adding that it didn’t seem right that students were working with their animals all year and we were not going “to fulfill our commitment with them.”
Although the barns were not full of animals, the participants brought their animals to the fairgrounds on Thursday.
A horse show also will be held Saturday to give “kids practicing all year (an opportunity) to show their talents.”
Missing with the fair are the carnival rides, sideshows, special performances at the grove stage by local musicians, the art, photography, food, craft competitions and of course the big name concerts.
The major acts that usually perform at the fair draw people from outside a 50-mile radius into Clearfield, said Josiah Jones, executive director of the Clearfield County Recreation and Tourism Authority.
Not having the fair “is devastating to the whole economy of Clearfield” and especially to the area hotels, which are normally completely booked this time of the year.
Jones estimated the week-long fair probably brings about $400,000 of revenue into the area not only for the hotels but for the restaurants and retail stores.
The Fair Food Court seems to have captured some of that money as Hallstrom reported they were overwhelmed with “the support people are giving to these vendors.”
Addressing concerns of the event spreading the COVID-19 virus, Hallstrom noted there is signage at every entrance asking people to maintain social distancing, and he said most of the vendors were complying with the mask restriction.
The crowds have been good, but people are not sticking around, he said, adding, “people know where they are going and what they want. They get it and leave.”
Most people “might spend 20 minutes here” with most food packed to go.
There have not been a lot of people gathering or chit chatting, he reported. The only ones who stay are those choosing to eat with their own group at the picnic tables in the grove.
Overall, the event, which ends Saturday, has done much better than expected.
“Every vendor has thanked us for putting this together,” Hallstrom said, adding that some have said this is the only event they are doing this summer.