The opening of the Yazoo County Fair falls into the hands of the city council this year. Although the 92-year-old event is held on the county-owned Yazoo County Fairgrounds, COVID restrictions set by the Board of Mayor and Aldermen could determine its operation since the fairgrounds are located within the city limits.
Martin McGraw, chairman of the Yazoo County Fair Association, appeared before the city council this week during a special call meeting. He provided the association’s plan of action, which includes COVID safety regulations, to the city board.
“It is important to note that the current gathering of ten or more people is not allowed in the city of Yazoo City,” said Mayor Diane Delaware. “It is also important to note that we are aware of the governor’s ordinances and his emergency proclamation. We may make stricter rules than those set by the governor. However, we may not decrease them.”
The Yazoo County Fair is slated to be held Oct. 14-26 at the county fairgrounds. McGraw provided a plan of action and asked the city council to consider allowing the community fair to be held this year.
“We will have hand sanitation stations at all entry gates and scattered throughout the Midway,” McGraw said. “Hand sanitation stations will also be placed at the Porta-Johns and with vendors. There will be ample opportunity for people to wash their hands regularly.”
“There is not enough sufficiency in the action plan,” Delaware replied. “I asked that Mr. McGraw be more specific in the plans.”
McGraw said attendants are required to wear face masks, and face masks will be provided to those who do not have them or possibly lose them while inside the fair. He added that the ride employees will also have masks to provide to attendants, and each ride will be sanitized after each time it is used.
McGraw said there will also be limited capacity inside the fair.
“People eat (at the fair) all the time,” Delaware said. “If an individual walks down the fairway and does not have on their mask while they are eating, which I suspect is constant…then social distancing is not happening. People should not be able to buy food and walk around with it. I can’t work with a fair that is going to allow people to walk in the fairway with no masks on.”
McGraw said there will be specific eating locations.
“We have also adjusted the layout of the Midway, double our width of the Midway,” McGraw said. “We will also have directional arrows, and we will correct as we see them. The lines to each ride have been repositioned so that the lines do not go out into the Midway.”
Delaware said she also had issues with parking, adding that many people will park in the city right-of-way, which could lead to a gathering of more than ten people.
“We control the parking lots and the grounds,” McGraw said. “What people do down the street, I can’t control.”
“Would they be congregating down the streets if it were not for the fair,” Delaware asked. “There is a pandemic in the world.”
McGraw said that the association will adhere to its safety regulations and COVID guidelines. But he added that he trusts people will acknowledge and agree that they assume these inherent risks associated with attendance.
“I trust in God,” Delaware replied.
Alderwoman Elizabeth Thomas said the community has been battling COVID for seven months.
“You can only put a muzzle on a dog for so long before it goes wild,” Thomas said. “You can’t punish everybody for other people’s behavior. If a person chooses to go to the fair, it is their choice. You can’t control grown people.”
Delaware said she understands that the fair is “fun and provides money to volunteer agencies.” But she did say it was a “capitalistic effort.”
“I admit we do make money,” McGraw told The Yazoo Herald. “But it is a community fair that raises money for charitable organizations. The fair promotes and increases tax revenue. The mission has not changed. The fair is good, family-fun for the people of Yazoo and to also showcase our local talent through exhibits and our 4-H program.”
The city council asked for more answers to specific questions during its special call meeting. McGraw emailed those specifics the next morning.
“None who I have spoken to are in favor of the fair,” Delaware said. “There is concern for the welfare of parents and children.”
The Yazoo Herald conducted a poll on its Facebook page to see what some of the community’s response was to the fair opening this year. The poll was shared 29 times, with 113 people leaving their comments. As of press time, all but one person were in favor of the fair opening. Many cited that the Mississippi State Fair was being allowed to operate this year. The Mississippi State Fair, which falls under the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce, are opening with the same regulations that the Yazoo County Fair Association presented to the city council.
This week’s meeting was not the first time the city council met to discuss the county fair. The city board met last Tuesday during a special call meeting. The city sent a notice of the meeting to The Yazoo Herald 26 minutes before the meeting began. Although he agreed to meet with the board at their invitation, McGraw said he was not informed of that first meeting.
The city council did not make a decision concerning the county fair during its Monday meeting. Board members said a special call meeting could be held with their decision.