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Designing a safer Delaware State Fair: What's new in 2020

From entertainment to health precautions, here's what you can expect this year.

Emily Lytle
Dover Post
  • All Grandstand concerts were canceled in April. Organizers added more grounds entertainment to help make up for this loss.
  • Livestock shows and sales are on, but the number of animals and people in each building will be limited.
  • Face coverings are required to enter the fairgrounds and to ride the shuttles.

For just over 100 years, the Delaware State Fair has been rooted in a sense of community. 

“We consider the community a big part of the success of the Delaware State Fair and the making of the Delaware State Fair,” said Danny Aguilar, assistant general manager and director of marketing. 

He and the other fair organizers did not want a pandemic to stop that.

After presenting a 67-page operations plan and working with state and health officials, the Delaware State Fair found a way to open the gates. With the theme “Homegrown Summer Fun,” it will be 10 days from Thursday, July 23 to Saturday, Aug. 1.  

While the tradition remains, many things will look different to help prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Concerts, entertainment changes

The first change came in April when organizers announced that all the M&T Bank Grandstand concerts and shows would be canceled.  Headliners included Dierks Bentley, Hank Williams Jr. and Dillon Carmichael and Becky G and John K. 

“We could not reconfigure our concert venue to accommodate any type of social distancing,” Aguilar said. 

The organizers studied big amusement parks like Universal and Disney and looked at the Kentucky State Fair when planning. To make up for the lost concerts, they added extra grounds entertainment and scheduled more shows throughout the day to encourage smaller crowds.

Disc-Connected K-9’s, a show of professionally choreographed dogs who perform Frisbee tricks, will make its debut at the Delaware State Fair this year.

New this year is a dog show called Disc-Connected K-9’s, which is a high-energy performance including tricks and impressive Frisbee retrievals. 

Aguilar recommended people make free reservations online for Disc-Connected K-9’s, the outdoor circus, the racing pigs and the camel show. Advance tickets will give people a sort of “fast pass” when lines are long, ensure they get seats with limited capacities and help them plan their day. 

Adam Calvert, a singer songwriter and up and coming country artist, will be performing everyday 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. in Hertrich Plaza.

Another new face will be rising country artist Adam Calvert, who will be performing daily from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. in Hertrich Plaza. Face coverings are required at all shows and performances.

Livestock shows

Since the fair has a strong foundation in agriculture, the organizers wanted to make sure that livestock exhibitors could still show and sell their animals. 

“We know our livestock community is certainly looking forward to having a venue and opportunity to show their animals,” Aguilar said.

Livestock exhibitors will continue to show and sell their animals at the Delaware State Fair.

To do that, they are limiting the amount of people and livestock in the buildings. For example, instead of putting swine and sheep in one building for all 10 days, swine exhibitors will be there for five days and then sheep will come the next five days. 

A limited number of people will be allowed in the show ring at once, and everyone must have a ticket to enter these areas. This will keep the crowds down to mostly family members, Aguilar said. 

Everyone else can livestream several of the shows at https://delawarestatefair.com/livestocklivestream

General precautions

In its new health and safety policy, the Delaware State Fair asks people to stay home if within the past 14 days they have tested positive for coronavirus, have been tested and are waiting on results, have been in contact with someone who was infected or have had any of the symptoms.

Everyone should evaluate his or her own risk before coming to the fair and know that there is a risk of becoming infected simply by being in public, the policy reads. 

Face coverings are required to enter the fairgrounds and to ride the shuttles. People can remove face coverings when sitting down six feet from other people and eating or drinking. They are recommended everywhere it is difficult to social distance and are required at all entertainment shows and indoors.

Markers will help people stay six feet apart while waiting in lines, and staff members called “distancing ambassadors” will monitor this. 

Hand sanitizer and hand washing stations will be around the fairgrounds. The fair will increase cleaning and disinfecting of common areas. There will no longer be self-service dining areas to get condiments, napkins or cutlery. 

For the full plan, visit https://www.delawarestatefaircovid.com/covid-19.