FILE - Gov. Mike DeWine

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine addesses steps the state is taking to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus Wednesday, March 11, 2020.

(The Center Square) – Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said no to another piece of legislation that would have struck down a COVID-19 pandemic health order. This time, it keeps county fairs in limbo.

DeWine vetoed a bill that would rescind the state’s health order from July that limited operations of county fairs.

“As the 2021 fair season is set to begin in June, my administration will continue to consult with health professionals on the state and local level. It is imperative that such fairs be conducted in a safe manner that reflect the facts on the ground at the time,” DeWine said in his veto message. “…a blanket recission of the current Order does not achieve the goal of working together to properly plan the upcoming fair season while ensuring the public health and protection of the people of Ohio.”

The Ohio Department of Health had said county fairs could only operate with junior fair activities and animal activities, prohibiting rides, games and grandstand events.

 State Sens. Frank Hoagland, R-Mingo Junction, and Tim Schaffer, R-Lancaster, led the effort to bring fairs back in 2021, sponsoring the bill that would have rescinded the health order.

It easily passed both the Senate and House.

“This legislation is necessary for the preservation of our county fairs that provide so much for our communities,” Hoagland said after passage. “It is essential that we reopen Ohio and allow local officials to make their own decisions based on the needs of their counties.”

During the 2020 fair season, the state gave $50,000 to each local fair conducting a junior fair program. Also, $15,000 went to fairs that decided not operate at all, and that money could be used for their 2021 fairs.

The Ohio Department of Agriculture also waived a $50,000 local match requirement for a grant program that allowed for local fairground improvements.

“During the 2020 fair season, many county and independent fairs stepped up to the plate,” DeWine’s message said. “Coordinating with their local health departments, they worked hard to ensure social distancing requirements and mask wearing.”

Regional Editor

An Ohio native, J.D. Davidson is a veteran journalist with more than 30 years of experience in newspapers in Ohio, Georgia, Alabama and Texas. He has served as a reporter, editor, managing editor and publisher.