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BREAKING: Sandwich Fair canceled for 2020 due to COVID-19 pandemic

SANDWICH – For the first time since it began more than 130 years ago, the Sandwich Fair will not be held.

The Sandwich Fair Association Board of Directors wrote in a Wednesday, July 1, news release the decision to cancel the fair, which draws thousands of people to the area every year, was based on COVID-19-related information provided by the DeKalb County Health Department, the Illinois Department of Public Health and guidelines provided by Gov. JB Pritzker. The fair had been scheduled to take place Sept. 9 to 13.

Fair officials wrote in the release the fair will be scheduled for Sept. 8-12, 2021.

Larry Dannewitz, president of the Sandwich Fair Association, said the fair not being canceled since 1888 is one of the popular event’s claim to fame. He said the fair didn’t close during the Great Depression in the 1930s, nor did it close during World War I or World War II – but it will have to be canceled this year because of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

“It was a hard pill to swallow, let me tell you,” Dannewitz said.

Dannewitz said patron, staff and vendor safety was the main reason why the fair was canceled. He said the announcement didn’t come sooner because fair officials were waiting for more state guidance and how that would apply to fairgrounds, and they remained hopeful that, perhaps, larger gatherings of people would be allowed in Phase 4 in the Restore Illinois reopening plan.

But Dannewitz said Phase 4, which went into effect June 26, allows for no more than 50 people in once space, and fair officials didn’t think the state would move to Phase 5, the last phase of the reopening plan, before September.

“We’re not good at social distancing at a county fair,” Dannewitz said with a laugh.

Brad Anderson, general manager for the Sandwich Fair Association, said the fairgrounds will remain closed for the rest of the year. Since the fairgrounds is considered a mass gathering space per state standards, he said, it will not be able to open until the state moves into Phase 5.

“It’s not a huge surprise,” but they were hoping the later event dates would give them more buffer time for state guidelines to be on their side, Anderson said.

An annual autumn harvest celebration event in the area benefiting Growing Hope Globally, an organization that hosts fundraisers to donate funds to people in developing countries to learn how to grow their own food, also has been canceled this year, according to Jerry Lundeen, who helps plan the event. He said he was told by fair association officials that all events at the fairgrounds were canceled for the rest of the year.

Lundeen said the event typically raises between $15,000 and $18,000 annually. He said the local chapters of the organization will have to look into other ways to help fundraise for the cause to help stave off hunger among more vulnerable populations in the world.

“I’m frustrated, let’s put it that way,” Lundeen said.

Dannewitz said the association needed to cancel the September fair, along with other events for the remainder of the year, as soon as they thought it wasn’t happening so fair partners and vendors could plan accordingly, sooner rather than later.

In the meantime, Dannewitz said, fair officials will continue to work toward the future.

“And, hopefully, we’ll come back with a big, nice fair in 2021,” Dannewitz said.

Source: The Daily Chronicle

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