Council hears fair safety prep plans

by Mark Cheffey

The Palmyra City Council held a special meeting last Monday to receive an update from Marion County Fair organizers about what measures are being taken in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The half-hour meeting, which was attended by 25 people, most of whom represented various civic groups and organizations involved in the fair, did not result in any council action, but consisted only in reports and comments on the pre-cautions being taken.

While some events such as the queen pageant and Little Mr. and Miss contests have been cancelled, organizers said the carnival is coming and the arena events are still on but with numerous precautions are being taken to protect those attending.

“We are doing everything we can to make it safe,” said Michele Hopson, who, with her husband, Randy, head the fair organizing for the Palmyra Chamber of Commerce.

Hopson, who said the fair will follow federal Center for Disease Control guidelines while providing a COVID-19 plan to the Marion County Health Department, also noted the fair was officially notified earlier in the day by the Marion County Commission it would receive the requested federal CARES Act money to fund sanitation efforts at the fair.

“This was a big win for us today,” said Ken Disselhorst, a member of the Palmyra Young Farmers, which sponsors the truck and tractor pull at the fair, of the CARES Act funding.

Hopson said the money would aid in the funding of:

• the fogging of bleachers at the end of each day;

• extra cleaning from the company that provides portable restrooms;

• extra cleaning of the park restroooms; and

• the wiping down of all picnic tables every two hours

Hopsons also said parking fees will not be taken at the gate as normal, but fairgoers will have the opportunity to give a free-will donation, to minimizer the handling of money.

Also being planned, Hopson said, is the placing of sign-age all around the fairgrounds reminding visitors to practice safe distancing.

Also asked about was the status of the many food vendors normally at the fair.

Hopson said each one would have to address safety issues with the county health department, but that many were still hoping to be open in some fashion.

Hopson noted other fair events have taken place around the state without issues, and that the state fair was still in the works.

However, it was announced Friday the state fair would be reduced to a youth livestock show only.

Paul Frankenbach, president of the Palmyra Kiwanis Club which has a hamburger stand, indicated club members were concerned about opening the stand this year and about the fair in general.

“We’re very concerned about it as a club,” Frankenbach said.

Council members expressed appreciation for the information provided during the meeting.

“It sounds like you’re doing a lot of work, and I appreciate that,” said Council member Pam Behring. 

At the start of the meeting, Mayor Loren Graham, made an introductory statement during which he criticized social media comments prior to the meeting, which he said incorrectly indicated the meeting was set in order to take action to shut down the fair.

Instead, he said, he and council members had been receiving questions from citizens about the status of the fair, and what was being done to ensure public safety.

“We’ve been getting a lot of questions, and we wanted to give them answers,” Graham said.

The meeting was held in the city’s new council chambers on the main floor of city hall. It was also live-streamed over the internet.