If Gasconade County Fair Association members Thursday had any thought of staging the 73rd annual fair next month, three minutes of comments by their president, Nick Baxter, likely changed their …
If Gasconade County Fair Association members Thursday had any thought of staging the 73rd annual fair next month, three minutes of comments by their president, Nick Baxter, likely changed their minds.
“I just want — if you wanna have a fair, I would like to have a fair, but I don’t want people getting sick because we have a fair,” said Baxter moments before Fair Association board members voted 22-5 to cancel the 2020 event. “ I don’t want people dying. If someone dies then it ain’t no fun. Whenever you vote, you need to think of all these things.”
Baxter began a three-minute long closing statement noting Cole County fair officials he’d spoken with recently had the same the concerns they’d expressed during their nearly two-hour long association meeting in the Exhibition Hall at Owensville’s Memorial Park.
“Half of their help has told them already they are not gonna work, they don’t know how they are going to run their stands, and they don’t have the following that we do have,” Baxter told the group of 60 atending the meeting including association director, committee members, representatives of county emergency services agencies, and local and county elected government officials.
He estimated 30 to 50 percent of the fair’s visitors come from Franklin, St. Charles, and St. Louis counties — perhaps even St. Louis city — all among COVID-19 hot spots.
“I would hope that everybody would think if they have a grandparent or have somebody old, like me, if you got kids — COVID affects old people and kids,” he noted. “Even if you get one case out of the fair, is it worth having the fair? I would hate to have the fair and have an outbreak of COVID in our county because we had the fair.”
He continued, recalling comments earlier from Greg Lara, director the Gasconade County Health Department, who reported two new cases of COVID-19 had been detected that day in the county.
“No names mentioned, but like Greg (Lara, Health Department director) said, there was a golf trip out in Oklahoma. There was eight people went, came back and two of them have COVID so far in our area. They’ve got six that was tested today. So they went to a place, picked up COVID and came back with it. Is it out there? Yes, it is. Can you can bring it into our community? Yes, you can. And we have three big nursing homes there and an elderly senior center and housing area. Do I want COVID to be in there? No. I just hope everybody thinks of all these things. We have thought of ways to take care of the kids, get the animals and get their shows done. Our livestock committee has worked on it.”
Two additional COVID-19 cases from the golfing group were confirmed Sunday by the health department. Two separate family members corrected an initial online report by The Republican saying that the group had traveled to Arkansas.
Baxter noted Rolla was still considering a fair but was having similar manpower concerns as they were hearing here. Fairs in Montgomery County, Washington, New Haven, Franklin County, and Crawford County have already been called off.
“The other thing is this, our entertainment is big name,” Baxter continued. “Are they going to come to a fair if COVID is going up in the state? I’d say probably not. So if we sell tickets and have a fair go forward and they cancel out on us at the last, we’re hung because they don’t have to pay us anything. So then we are sitting there with no entertainment and I don’t know what to do in that situation. Cause we sold tickets.
“Things to think about: the health of the community. If we have the crowds that everyone is talkin’ about come in, what’s the chances of people dyin’ or gettin’ sick, I can’t tell ya, but I think they are darn good cause I am sure we are going to get sick people in there. If they want social spacing with only so many people on the fairgrounds at one time, we still get killed moneywise.
“If we don’t have the fair, we have estimated our losses for the year at between $15,000 and $20,000 — we have some contract fees that we have to pay no matter what. If we have a fair, the chances of having a big loss, I can’t tell you, but it would be there. We can recover from a $15,000 or $20,000 loss and have the fair next year. If we lose our money trying to have a big fair and people don’t come because they are afraid of COVID, or shows up and people just disappear from the fairgrounds because they heard we had a case here and we lose all that money, we can’t stand a loss like that. We have to make the money at the fair that we run next year’s fair on and we are running on an over $500,000 budget. That’s over half a million dollars. I don’t know where we would come up with that. It would be the end of the fair I think.”
Before squares of paper were distributed to voting association members, Baxter added one final thought, saying, “But everybody’s got their own opinion and have the right to vote.”
In the end, he announced the “overwhelming” decision to cancel the fair. When asked, he confirmed the vote was 22-5 to cancel the fair.