ELIZABETHTOWN, Pa. (WHTM) — The ongoing Elizabethtown Fair kicks off a season of local fairs around Lancaster County. Last year, fairs around the county and the state were canceled due to COVID-19, but they’re back on for 2021.
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“It’s exciting, and people are ready to get out,” Elizabethtown Fair secretary Sally Nolt said. The E-Town Fair started on Monday, and it’s pretty much back to business-as-usual.
The same could not be said for 2020, though. Nolt, who is also affiliated with the Pennsylvania State Association of County Fairs, said that there are 108 fairs associated with the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, and only five of them ran last year.
None of the seven fairs that happen in Lancaster County took place in their typical form last year, Nolt said, although some still held small sales or activities in place of a full-blown festival.
“We waited till the end of May till we canceled, and we just didn’t feel it was something we wanted to expose the community to. That was really the main decision — the health issue,” Nolt said.
The Denver Fair, which starts on Sept. 14 this year, was another one of the fairs canceled in 2020. “I know it’s something the community looks forward to, and I’m sure people were disappointed,” Dennis Worley, president of The Denver Fair, said.
Worley hopes The Denver Fair will be as normal as possible this year, although some events that would have gathered people close together, like the kids’ candy scramble, have been temporarily eliminated.
The Denver Fair was called off in May of 2020, several months before it was scheduled to take place. With just a few weeks to go before the 2021 event, Worley said he hopes the fair will be a go this year, and his team is “plugging ahead full steam” with the preparations.
A couple of fairs in Pennsylvania were canceled this year due to COVID-19 concerns, including the Schnecksville Community Fair in Lehigh County and the Middletown Grange Fair in Bucks County, but so far it looks like all seven fairs in Lancaster County will still be happening this fall.
The Denver Fair will have masks available and hand sanitizer placed throughout the fairgrounds, and Worley hopes attendees will follow recommended safety precautions. He said that as of this week, masks will not be required at outdoor events, but they may be required inside the arts and crafts building.
The E-town Fair is not requiring guests to wear masks or provide proof of vaccination as of Thursday, Aug. 26.
Nolt said that the biggest challenge for the E-town Fair this year — other than the heat — is a shortage of staff and volunteers. One of Nolt’s favorite vendors, T.J. Rockwell’s, couldn’t open a stand at the fair this year because of short staffing.
But with plenty of other food, games, entertainment, rides, agricultural exhibits, and more, the Denver and Elizabethtown fairs are welcoming back guests who are excited to return to these community events.
“People are ready to get out,” Nolt said, adding, “Being a free fair, we often have people who come every day just to eat.” (There’s a rumor that the milkshakes at the E-town Fair are even better than the locally legendary Farm Show milkshakes, but guests will have to decide that for themselves.)
The Elizabethtown Fair continues through Aug. 28. The Denver Fair runs Sept. 14-18.
Lancaster County 2021 fall fair dates:
Aug. 23-28, 2021
Sept. 14-18, 2021
Sept. 15-17, 2021
Sept. 21-25, 2021
West Lampeter Community Fair
Sept. 22-24, 2021
New Holland Famers Fair
Sept. 29-Oct. 2, 2021
Manheim Community Farm Show
Oct. 4-8, 2021