The state has officially pulled the plug on the North Carolina State Fair this fall.

Agriculture Secretary Steve Troxler announced the decision to cancel the fair due Wednesday due to concerns over safety amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

“I can think of a thousand places I’d rather be today than here delivering this news,” Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler said in a statement. “We waited as long as we could, hoping the numbers would take a turn and we’d be able to continue with our planning, but each day brought more challenges than solutions.”

The state has reported more than 116,000 laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19 since March. There are currently more than 1,200 people hospitalized and more than 1,800 people have died. 

The fair was originally scheduled to kick off October 15 and draws nearly a million visitors with its animal exhibitions, unique array of fried cuisine, and theme park rides. There’s been a fair every year since 1853 with only a handful of exceptions, including the year’s surrounding the Civil War and World War II. 

“The State Fair is a tradition we all look forward to each year,” Troxler said. “It’s a vital economic engine for local non-profits, community groups, small businesses, and individuals. It’s a time for family and friends to come together to celebrate everything that makes North Carolina such a great place to live.”

With long lines and crowded walkways, the layout of the fair makes abiding by social distancing recommendations impossible. Fair organizations considered an array of safety precautions including temperature checks, limiting capacity, and stringent cleaning regimen, but “to offer anything less than what fairgoers have come to know and love would be a disservice to our community and to us,” said fair manager Kent Yelverton.

“There is no halfway when producing a fair,” Yelverton said. “The people, the lights, the rides, the smells, the music…all of that contributes to an atmosphere that can only be felt during a fair.”

Putting on the event is typically a $6.8 million affair that produces enough revenue to sustain itself. However, since February 186 events had already been canceled, equating to a loss of about $2.3 million in revenue. 

The state will still be hosting the junior livestock and horse shows this fall. Troxler says plans are underway for a “great 2021 State Fair.” 

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