HARRINGTON — While this year’s Delaware State Fair won’t look completely like it did before the COVID-19 pandemic, things have relaxed greatly and there will still be plenty of fun to be had during the 102nd edition of the Downstate staple.
Following guidance from the Division of Public Health, the governor’s office and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Danny Aguilar, assistant general manager for the fair, said those who are fully vaccinated will not have to wear a mask during the 2021 state fair.
Those who are not vaccinated will be strongly encouraged to wear a mask. Vaccination cards will not be necessary for admission. Everyone will be on the honor system.
Whenever possible, all persons on the fairgrounds and inside any of its facilities are encouraged to stay at least three feet apart from others who are not from your household, per Centers for Disease Control guidelines. Carnival goers will see wider aisles like last year as well.
The nightly parade will not be held for the second straight year and the Junior Livestock Auction will again take place virtually with species in the livestock area separated by day.
But those are the only real limitations as the fair is set to roll again July 22-31.
During a Facebook Live event last month, Mr. Aguilar noted that, despite health concerns, last year’s event went smoothly, and this year’s fair should go even better.
“The fair is going to look and feel and sound very much like we saw things in 2019. So that brings a lot of excitement to us,” he said.
Mr. Aguilar said last week he expects to see attendance figures climb back to the 300,000 mark, where it usually reaches every year. That is up greatly from the mid-90,000 attendance the fair experienced last year during the throes of the pandemic.
Mr. Aguilar described planning for this year’s fair as a “real roller coaster” and even more challenging than last year.
“Last year, we knew where things stood. Everyone had to wear a mask and stay six feet apart. This year, guidelines changed. How old do you have to be to get vaccinated? What is the difference from outdoors to indoors? There were a lot of factors at play as we went along,” he said.
One of the casualties of the fluctuating guidelines was the cancellation in April of some of the previously announced bigger acts as attendance restrictions went into place.
The performances included shows by Sam Hunt, TobyMac, Tedeschi Trucks Band, the “I Love the 90s” Tour featuring Vanilla Ice, All-4-One, Young MC and The Funky Bunch and Hank Williams Jr.
Total capacity of the M&T Grandstand was taken from 8,200 people down to 3,600, which made some of the larger shows untenable.
Although restrictions now aren’t as stringent as they were in April, Mr. Aguilar is confident the state fair did the right thing in modifying its concert schedule for 2021.
“We just didn’t know where we would be at this time of year, so we decided to err on the side of caution. We didn’t want to make another adjustment if say another variant were to force the state to go back to social distancing. Would we love to have the full show schedule? Absolutely. And we hope to have parts of that lineup for 2022,” he said.
There will be no pit or VIP seating this year as those seats will be converted into pods.
In the stadium and grandstand, seating will be limited to every other row. Tickets will be sold in pods of two, four or six.
A free concert featuring local favorites Club Phred, The Funsters and Kristen & The Noise will kick things off on the first day of the fair, July 22, at 8 p.m.
The revised concert lineup includes the children’s show “Blippi: The Musical” at 3 and 6 p.m.
July 23; Lauren Alaina with Maddie & Tae at 7:30 p.m. July 24; Riley Green with Drew Green at
7:30 p.m. July 26; Tracy Byrd with Jo Dee Messina at 7:30 p.m. July 27; HARDY with Jon Langston at
7:30 p.m. July 28; the classic Southern rock group 38 Special at
7:30 p.m. July 30; and contemporary Christian artists Zach Williams and Stephen Stanley at 7:30 p.m. July 31.
The demolition derby (July 25) and harness racing (July 29) remain on the schedule.
Discount days come back this year with Pepsi Day granting $2 off gate admission with marked coupons July 23; Food Lion Hunger Relief Day will be paired with a Seniors Day on July 26 with free admission for those who bring in five Food Lion brand nonperishable food items and free admission for those 60 and over; Kids Day will be July 27 with free admission for children 12 and under; Armed Forces Day is July 28 with a valid military ID required for free admission; and another Seniors Day is set for July 29, again offering free admission for those 60 and over.
“We’re excited for people to come out on those promotional days — and also the free concert — as our way of celebrating the return of live entertainment both local and regional,” said Mr. Aguilar.
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Features editor Craig Horleman can be reached at 741-8224 or email@example.com.