GREAT FALLS, Mont. – The Cascade County Commissioners met via Zoom for a public meeting on May 19 to discuss whether or not to cancel the Montana State Fair this year, scheduled for July 24-Aug. 1, and unfortunately, the event has been cancelled for 2020.
The commissioners listened to public comments and a presentation by Montana ExpoPark general manager, Susan Shannon, who discussed the pros and cons of holding the fair this year. In order to comply with current health recommendations, sanitation stations would have had to be set up throughout the grounds and social distancing protocols would have to be enforced for the fair to proceed. Another concern was how to address the 14-day quarantine rule for out-of-state spectators, rodeo contestants, carnival workers and entertainment.
Also discussed was the fact holding the fair at all was dependent on when Phase 3 of Governor Bullock’s state re-opening plan was to be enacted. It was recently announced that Phase 2 of the plan is set to begin June 1, but there has been no indication of when Phase 3 will begin.
The Cascade County Commissioners ultimately voted to cancel the fair. The decision has garnered mixed responses with some praising the cancellation, saying “it is truly best for the health and safety of the state.” Others responded with frustration and disappointment, especially for the 4-H and FFA members who will not be able to exhibit their livestock and the rodeo contestants who depend on the PRCA circuit.
In a press release printed shortly after the May 19 decision, Jane Weber, Cascade County Commissioner, commented, "It would be a much changed state fair, and I think we could do better by sprucing up the grounds, sprucing up the buildings, and getting some projects accomplished with the taxpayer money to ensure we are bigger and better next year."
The Montana State Fair usually attracts between 8,000-9,000 visitors each year. Although the cancellation will have economic repercussions for the city of Great Falls, the decision was made out of an abundance of caution.