OHIO: Fair industry hoping to reopen this year after a major financial blow in 2020

Excerpt from wdtn.com News - Kelley King - Updated: 

The fair industry is waiting for guidance from Governor Mike DeWine about what will happen this year after taking a major financial hit in 2020.

Jennifer Ramsey is a fourth generation concessionaire based out of Indian Lake, working at fairs and festivals since she was ten.

“It’s all I’ve ever done my whole life. So it was kind of hard to imagine doing anything else,” admits Ramsey.

She has 14 food trailers, playing at roughly 25 spots a year.

“This is our only source of income. A lot of families that are in this business, a lot of them are multigenerational. A lot of them have been doing this their whole lives,” states Ramsey.

While festival and fair season only runs a few months, Ramsey’s work starts in January with meetings. In March she starts getting her trailers ready, ordering supplies, and lining up workers, hiring between 25 and 35 people for the season.

“There’s a lot of preparation that goes into it ahead of time. The fairs have to book entertainment. They have to get their volunteers. The festivals have to make sure their organizations are going to come back,” states Ramsey.

Now, the pressure is building and the clock is ticking as she awaits a decision from the governor for holding county fairs this year.

“We don’t have time left. It has to be now,” says Ramsey.

She lost tens of thousands of dollars when festivals and county fairs across the state shut down in 2020. Many of those in the industry struggled, not qualifying for financial help or PPP loans.

Some festivals already have been canceled for 2021, which will have a further impact on vendors an concessionaires.

“There’s going to be many people that lose everything they’ve worked for their whole lives,” states Ramsey. “There’s going to be a lot of people in our industry that go completely out of business. It’s really scary for us.”

As Ohio continues reopening, Ramsey wants a green light for county fairs.

“All the restaurants are open. There’s rules you have to abide by, which we can all do that. It’s not a big deal. Camping at the fairs–when people camp at the fairs–campgrounds are open all over the state of Ohio, and you follow the rules of camping. For rides and games, Cedar Point and Kings Island were open last summer. There is nothing that any of these people do that we cannot do,” says Ramsey.

Regardless of what happens with county fairs, Ramsey says she plans to go to every junior fair that she can.

She is hoping to have an answer about fairs by at least March 1.