Garland County fair cuts carnival, adds health safety measures during pandemic

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GARLAND COUNTY, Ark. – While most counties have canceled their county fair because of the pandemic, Garland County is set to host theirs starting Friday. This took a lot of planning and preparation with the Arkansas Department of Health.

With nine 4-H clubs and four FFA programs in the county, the pens and arena are like the student’s court and the county fair is like their championship.

“They have a lot of money invested they have a lot of time invested and to tell those kids were not going to have a fair is not the words I wanted to say,” Garland County Fair and Livestock Secretary Carroll Mercer said.

That’s why Mercer said he and the rest of the board had no intention of canceling it.

“We knew all along that we were planning on having it until someone told us that we couldn’t,” Mercer said.

Mercer said they have been in constant communication with the Arkansas Department of Health to put on a fair in the midst of a pandemic.

“The guidelines are tough,” Mercer said.

Those guidelines include proper signage and social distancing markers.

“The yellow tape shows they’re not going to be able to sit there and the blue markers indicate where people can sit,” Mercer said.

They will also have hand sanitizing stations at every entrance and masks will be required. Along with those added precautions the board had to strip some things from that classic county fair lineup.

“The part with the carnival is the fact that they travel as much as they do, not being able to control social distancing, if they come from a hot state that has a lot of outbreak as far as the pandemic is concerned are they bringing it into the county,” Mercer said.

Mercer knows there are a lot of changes but it’s sacrifices they are willing to make to keep the gates open.

“We’re doing the best that we can with what we have to work with. It’s going to be different but it’s still going to be our fair,” Mercer said.

Mercer said they have added a car show this year. They will also have a tribute to essential workers. They did have to cut back on the number of people inside the arena. It holds 10,000, now they can only have 4,000. Everything kicks off Friday with their demolition derby.

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