The Portage County Fair is closed to the public, leaving Confederate flag question hanging

Stock image by Annie Spratt

Randolph Fair

The Portage County Fair is closed to the public, leaving Confederate flag question hanging

‘Nothing is the same and this has been like planning for an event for the first time ever.’

The Portage County Fair Board recently announced the fair will be closed to the public this year, taking a more cautious approach than neighboring Summit County and putting off a decision on whether Confederate flags should be allowed for sale on the grounds.

On July 30, the board published its decision along with the strict public health standards that would be in place, including the regular disinfecting of barns and high-traffic areas. The board has asked for patience from participants, citing the unprecedented nature of planning a fair during a global pandemic.

“Nothing is the same and this has been like planning for an event for the first time ever,” the board said in a statement. “We will continue to work with direction from the Governor’s office and with our Health Department and Emergency Services.”

Those with animals in the fair who traditionally camped on the fairgrounds will be prohibited from doing so this year, and there will be a night barn watch instead.

This comes after an earlier decision in June to go forward with the junior fair, which consists of animal exhibits and showings. At the time, they had not yet reached a decision on whether to open to the public with rides and concessions.

Earlier this month, Summit County held a modified fair, canceling open class events for animals and art, but remaining open to the public, complete with rides and vendors. The fair was allowed to remain open even after Gov. Mike DeWine banned all large fairs across the state, allowing only Junior Fairs to be held. The order went into effect July 31.

In May, the Ohio State Fair, traditionally held at the end of July, was canceled.

The Portager attempted to interview members of the Portage fair board about the changes and a petition to ban the sale and display of the Confederate Battle Flag at the fair. We were directed to the board’s president, Tracey Koszalka, who did not return calls and an email for comment.

The petition, started by the Portage County Young Democrats, called on the fair to “ban the sale and display of the confederate battle flag at all fair events,” said Christopher Clevenger-Morris, president of the group. The petition gained over 300 signatures and was sent to the Portage County Senior Fair Board on July 29. The group did not receive a reply. The petition is still available on the Young Democrats’ website.

“While we understand that this issue is a controversial one to some, at the end of the day you’re talking about taking a stand against a clear symbol of racism in our community,” Clevenger-Morris said.

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