NDN Madison County Fair & Rodeo

Gage Kraeger, from Avoca, Neb., competes in steer wrestling during the rodeo last year at the Madison County Fair. Fair officials have canceled this year's fair and rodeo due to the pandemic.

The 2020 Madison County Fair and Rodeo has been postponed until next year.

The board of directors for the Madison County Agriculture Society announced Friday morning that the fair — which had been scheduled for July 7-12 — will now be pushed back a year to July 6-11, 2021.

The board of directors released a statement that said due to the likelihood that restrictions on large gatherings would continue into the summer, the fair would not be the right atmosphere people have come to expect from the fair.

“Due to circumstances surrounding the COVID–19 pandemic, we have made this very difficult decision,” said Randy Ritterbush, president of the fair board. “Based on what we know today, large gatherings of people will not be allowed without some type of restrictions. To say that we are very disappointed is an understatement.”

Gov. Pete Ricketts announced Thursday that gatherings of up to 25 people or 25% of a venue’s rated occupancy, whichever is greater, would be allowed as long as the total crowd doesn’t exceed 3,000 people.

The new requirement will replace the state’s current 10-person limit and will apply to both indoor and outdoor venues, including fairgrounds, but any event expected to draw more than 500 people will need prior approval from the county’s public health director.

“This should be a time for families to enjoy all of the sights, tastes and sounds of a great county fair,” Ritterbush said. “We do not feel that such an atmosphere could be provided this year.”

Ritterbush said the fair would not be financially viable, either.

The lineup for the 2020 fair had included four nights of rodeo, two nights of concerts, the Heart of America carnival, open class and 4-H shows and exhibits.

In making its decision, the board consulted with the Nebraska Association of Fair Managers, the International Association of Fairs and Expositions and the Nebraska Intergovernmental Risk Management Association.

“We do understand that this will have a negative economic impact on our fair vendors, rodeo personnel and businesses in our local communities that are already struggling with the effects of the health mandates concerning the COVID–19 pandemic now in place. However, we feel that again, the health and safety of the members of our community must come first,” Ritterbush said.

For those who have purchased tickets, Etix will issue refunds in the next three weeks. For those who paid with cash or check, contact the Madison County Agriculture Society at 402-454-2144.

The entertainers scheduled this year, REO Speedwagon with Head East and Aaron Watson with The Dylan Bloom Band, have been offered the opportunity to perform at the 2021 fair. Updates to the 2021 fair will be posted on the fair’s Facebook page.

The Nebraska Extension Service and local 4–H and FFA programs have not canceled shows and events for 2020. The facilities of the fairgrounds will be available to them for any type of virtual, blended or live display of county 4-H and FFA programs. Updates may be found on 4-H and Extension newsletters and emails.

Elsewhere in the state, all public events and activities for the July 22-28 Buffalo County Fair in Kearney have been canceled, with plans for only virtual competitions for 4-H livestock and static exhibits.

But some fairs are plowing ahead. For instance, the Gosper County Fair is “going full steam ahead” on hosting its July 23-25 county fair as planned, except for the carnival, said fair manager Rick Gennrich of Bertrand. He added that the 4-H part of the fair “is a definite go,” the entertainment still is booked and he expects the rodeo also to proceed as planned. Also, last week, the Dawson County Fair announced that it’s planning for a limited July 15-19 fair in Lexington that has 4-H and FFA competitive events, but no public participation.

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