Not since World War II has there failed to be a Tennessee State Fair held in Nashville, but, due to health concerns imposed by COVID-19, the more than 150-year-old event this year is being shuttered, although Fair officials note that plans are still in the making for some activities to be open for the public’s participation.
State Fair Manager Scott Jones said the Fair is not “closing its doors or abandoning its long history and tradition. We’re just doing what we believe is in the best interest of the health and well being of those who walk through our gates each year.”
Jones said the decision regarding this year’s Fair was “not made hastily.”
He said members of the Tennessee State Fair Association board held lengthy sessions twice last week to discuss what “the right decision should be” with regards to producing this year’s Fair scheduled for September 11-20.
“The more we talked with local and state officials, gathered information from those involved with other similar events, and discussed the topic thoroughly within our own board, we came to the conclusion that it would be best this year to not host a traditional State Fair,” Jones said.
He noted that also adding to the challenge of hosting a Fair on the Nashville Fairgrounds site this year was the fact that the midway footprint had been reduced in size in order to make way for the construction of the new MLS stadium. Jones explained, that with a smaller space than what the State Fair has occupied in past years, there was a concern about being able to meet the restrictions and preventive recommendations associated with COVID-19 as expressed by healthcare officials.
He said that he and members of his staff are developing plans to have a number of activities during the 10-day period that the Fair is scheduled to be held. Plans being considered, according to Jones, include contests, exhibits, the presence of certain carnival-like vendors, and virtual and/or digital events.
“While we make these plans, we acknowledge that we must be ever so conscious of maintaining a healthy and safe environment and abiding by the guidelines that have been established by healthcare officials locally and nationwide,” he said.
According to Jones the all-volunteer TSFA board, comprised of members from across the state, was adamant that the State Fair should have a presence this year “even if that means it will be severely abbreviated.”
He said many of the activities that are typically associated with the State Fair will not be scheduled this year including livestock competitions, live entertainment programs, pageants and other activities of this nature that generally attract large numbers of persons standing or sitting close together or waiting in line for tickets.
“We plan to do our very best to provide some agenda that will still make it entertaining and educational to attend an abbreviated production of the Fair this year,” he said.
Additional announcements are to be made in the weeks ahead regarding ongoing plans for the Fair this year.
The State Fair, always a 10-day production, is scheduled to open next year on Friday, September 10.