Most Midwest state fairs have been cancelled or significantly scaled back for 2020 because of coronavirus concerns, joining dozens of other signature Midwest events that have been called off for the year.

By Cheyann Neades
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The Kansas State Fair Board voted July 13 to cancel the traditional 2020 fair, originally scheduled for Sept. 11-20, although the fair hopes to have livestock events, including 4H and FFA competitions, for three weekends starting Sept. 3.

"We realized we weren’t going to be able to provide the same annual tradition that Fairgoers have come to expect," said Fair Board President Harmon Bliss. "While we are heartbroken there will not be a Kansas State Fair this year, we want to make sure the Fair is on solid footing for another 100 years.”

Most other Midwest states have announced cancellations or modifications for 2020 state fairs:

Nebraska’s fair, scheduled for Aug. 28-Sept. 7, will focus this year on 4-H and FFA competitions and exhibitions. "While the Fair will look different than it has in the past, providing an opportunity for young people to showcase the work they have been doing throughout the year as it is important to the State Fair and to the future of our state," the fair announced at the end of June. "The 2020 State Fair will include 4-H and FFA livestock competitions, contests, presentations, and static exhibits."

• The Illinois State Fair, originally scheduled for Aug. 13-23, was cancelled on June 12, just two days after Iowa also announced its fair cancellation. "Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Pritzker has issued an Executive Order cancelling the Illinois and Du Quoin State Fairs this year," the fair announced on its website.

• The Iowa State Fair, scheduled for the same dates, was cancelled on June 10. "Amid the pandemic, we couldn’t, in good conscience, put on the fair when we knew access to emergency safety services at the fair could be limited, public transportation to and from the fair would not be possible, the constant sanitization of a seemingly infinite amount of high touch surfaces lacked feasibility and social distancing in lines to get your favorite fair food or walking the Grand Concourse would be difficult," said fair manager Gary Slater.

• Missouri fair staff members announced on June 11 that "the Missouri State Fair will be held as scheduled August 13-23, 2020. However, the fair will look differently than previous years. The mission of our fair has always been to showcase Missouri agriculture, so our livestock shows will continue to honor that tradition. Details for our vendors, sponsors, and other partners are still being determined." Fair officials said that as more details were available, they would be released via the website, social media pages and media partners.

• The Indiana State Fair, originally scheduled for Aug. 7-23, was cancelled on June 4.  In place of the fair, the Indiana State Fair Commission and the Indiana State Fair Board announced "a modified State Fair 4-H Livestock Show with additional activities that will be held on the State Fairgrounds in August."

• The Wisconsin State Fair, which had been scheduled for Aug. 6-16, was cancelled on May 28 because of COVID-19 concern. "The evidence that this disease spreads easily when people are in densely populated areas has led several agencies to continue their recommendation of avoiding mass gatherings," the fair said. "Considering the Wisconsin State Fair is the largest event in the State of Wisconsin, drawing more than one million people over the course of 11 days, this weighed heavily into the decision to cancel the 2020 Wisconsin State Fair."

• The Minnesota State Fair, scheduled for Aug. 27-Sept. 7, was cancelled on May 22,  just a day after Ohio called off its fair. "It's the only decision. It's the right thing to do," Minnesota state fair general manager Jerry Hammer said. Billed as The Great Minnesota Get-Together, the Midwest's most popular fair draws some 2 million people.

• The Ohio State Fair originally planned for July 29-Aug.9 was cancelled May 21. North Dakota’s State Fair, scheduled for July 17-25, 2020, was cancelled earlier in May.

• Michigan's Upper Peninsula State Fair in Escanaba, slated for Aug. 17-23, has been called off due to COVID-19 restrictions on crowd size. According to the Keweenaw Report, "organizers say they may still plan a scaled-back event which would highlight youth livestock and other exhibitors."

That leaves only two state fairs, both slated for September, still scheduled with their usual activities. The Michigan Fair’s website says “we are hopeful that a sense of normalcy will return” by the time of the fair, planned for Sept. 3-7, “and that Michiganders, more than ever, will welcome an opportunity” to celebrate. South Dakota fair officials say the fair is still being planned for late summer (Sept. 3-7) but a pop-up message on the fair website notes that COVID-19 will likely remain a risk.

Other Midwest events

Throughout the Midwest, events have been canceled for 2020; some were initially postponed until later in the year, but most of those have now been canceled as well.

Among major Midwest events called off for 2020: the National Morel Mushroom Festival in Boyne City, Michigan; the National Cherry Festival in Traverse City, Michigan; the National Balloon Classic in Indianola, Iowa; RAGBRAI in Iowa; the Des Moines Arts Festival; Hinterland Music Festival in St. Charles, Iowa; Chicago area events including the Chicago Blues Festival, Ribfest Chicago, Ravinia Festival, Chicago Air and Water Show, and Chicago Gospel Music Festival; Polish Fest, Irish Fest and Festa Italiana in Milwaukee; Riverfest in Wichita, Kansas; Kansas’ Symphony in the Flint Hills; the X Games in Minneapolis; Old-Time Music Ozark Heritage Festival in Missouri; Columbus (Ohio) Arts Festival; Czech Days in Tabor, South Dakota; EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wisconsin; Lumberjack World Championships in Hayward, Wisconsin; Fyr Bal Festival in Door County, Wisconsin; World’s Largest Brat Fest in Madison, Wisconsin; and Summerfest in Milwaukee (originally rescheduled to September but now postponed until 2021).

Postponements include the Indianapolis 500 (now Aug. 23); Indiana’s Abbey Road on the River (now Oct. 8-11); and Taste of Omaha (now Aug. 14-16).

Please check websites for the latest event information.