Eastern Montana Fair to continue

Alex Mitchell Star Intern
Friday, July 10, 2020

With modifications made to prevent COVID-19 spread, the Eastern Montana Fair is, for the most part, going as planned for Aug. 19 to 22.

At the Eastern Montana Fair Board meeting on Wednesday, the board discussed their plans for events and how they plan to ensure social distancing.

This is as COVID-19 cases rise and other fairs like the Richland County Fair in Sidney cancel, and others like the MontanaFair in Billings cancel their concerts, rodeos and supercross.

Meanwhile, the only thing confirmed cancelled at the Eastern Montana Fair is the petting zoo.

Thomas Carnival will bring less rides for the fairway as part of their effort to prevent COVID-19 spread. Also to that effort is sanitizing every seat that was used in the ride before and only using every other seat on the rides.

To reduce lines, the carnival will not offer the wristband that allows unlimited rides for several hours, instead only offering tickets at the fair. However, due to the slower rate of rides the carnival will stay for longer with them starting Aug. 18 and ending Aug. 23.

According to Mike Schuldt of 4-H, they still plan on conducting animal sales and judging with members of the organization all wearing masks.

Almost all the events will still proceed in the fair with the Professional RodeoCowboys Association rodeo continuing Tuesday, Aug. 18 and Wednesday, Aug. 19, the tractor pull continuing on Thursday, Aug. 20 and the concert continuing Friday Aug. 20 with headliner Shenandoah and openers Robert Henry and Sting Ray Anthony.

What’s uncertain is the demolition derby scheduled for Saturday with the Miles City Area Chamber of Commerce deciding not to sponsor it this year as it always had. Without a sponsor, the event can’t continue as insurance needs to be arranged for the competitors.

Chamber of Commerce Executive Director John Laney mentioned the Bakken Beatdown, a Sidney event similar to the demolition derby here, and how they saw a spike in cases after the event leading to the cancellation of the fair.

“I don’t know why we would harbor any thoughts that it is going to be any different,” Laney said to the board. “I know where you guys are at. You are screwed without a Saturday event. The problem is you guys need to decide where you stand in this position. If you do proper social distancing every other row, it is going to cost more than it makes.”

Eastern Montana Fair Board Vice President Corey Jones as well as other board members, wanted to see the demolition derby continue.

While they won’t have a confirmation until Monday, Friends of the Fair, a nonprofit group formed to benefit Eastern Montana Fairgrounds, will be considered to sponsor it in lieu of the Chamber of Commerce.

“We need to dot all our i’s and cross our t’s before we commit to anything,” board member Levi Liles said with them submitting event plans to the Miles City Health Board.

The fair plans to issue masks to everyone at the gates who wants them and have more portable toilets provided. Indoor buildings will be only allowed to fill to 75% of their max capacity, and events that use the grandstands will have every row closed off.

“It’s going to be a lot more work for this fair,” District 3 County Commissioner and fair board member Kevin Krausz said. “The [county] commissioners figure we’re going to lose money even with the fair, but it could go better than we think.”

The fair board has been holding off on making some of their significant decisions due to uncertainty with the pandemic, but according to Eastern Montana Fair Board Manager Gail Shaw, “we can’t wait much longer.”

(Contact Alex Mitchell at mcstarintern@gmail.com or 406-234-0450.)

(Editor's Note: A quote by John Laney within the story was corrected.)