FAIR

Riders react on the ride Space Roller at the Tulsa State Fair on Oct. 3, 2019. MIKE SIMONS/Tulsa World file

We were stunned at the news that the 2020 Oklahoma State Fair has been canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Oklahoma City event — which had been scheduled for Sept. 17-27 — has never been canceled in its 114-year history. It has been held in times of disease and war, but it won’t be held this year.

The fair would have drawn some 900,000 people and had an annual economic impact of $100 million.

It was an emotional decision, but one supported by the facts, organizers said. In the end, the risk to public health and the challenges of making the fair safe during a pandemic made it impossible, they said.

Linde Oktoberfest Tulsa, which was planned for Oct. 21-25 at River West Festival Park, was also canceled on Friday. The event annually draws 60,000 people.

Those cancellations turn attention to the Tulsa State Fair, which is scheduled to begin its 11-day run four days after the Oklahoma State Fair was supposed to wrap up.

Tulsa State Fair organizers say they’re not ready to make a decision about whether to move ahead and may not make that choice until the end of July.

We can understand the need to wait to make a decision. Eventually, vendors, contractors and exhibitors will need to know whether there’s going to be a fair or not, but there’s no reason to make a decision precipitously.

The Tulsa State Fair is more than just a carnival. It’s an engine of economic activity and an annual social phenomenon that brings the state’s rural roots and its future together. Its cancellation would have a huge impact on our economy, and we’d hate to lose it.

That said, the only standard for deciding whether to move ahead with the fair should be whether it can be held safely. Can we figure out how to make sure everyone — from the exhibitors in the animal barns to the ride operators on the midway — observes appropriate COVID-19 precautions? Can we make sure that the event is fun and profitable but not a vector for deadly disease?

The Oklahoma State Fair decided that its event wasn’t in line with the good health of the community. It was a difficult decision that will certainly be second-guessed by some, but Tulsa State Fair officials should do the same if they don’t feel certain that a fair can be staged safely.


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