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Scaled-back county fair starts Friday

by David Showers | September 9, 2020 at 4:00 a.m.
Carnival rides light up the night sky at the Garland County Fairgrounds on Sept. 11, 2019. This year's fair will not include carnival rides. - Photo by Grace Brown of The Sentinel-Record

The Garland County Fair Association has submitted a health-and-wellness plan for the 2020 Garland County Fair that starts with Friday's demolition derby, the Arkansas Department of Health confirmed.

The fair association said there will be no rides or carnival at this year's event.

Per the Health Department directive on large outdoor gatherings, a plan must be filed if more than 100 people will be in attendance. According to the fair association's plan, staff will be monitoring entrances to ensure attendees over the age of 10 are wearing face coverings.

The directive allows face coverings to be removed after attendees are seated and 6 feet apart from each other. Masks have to be put back on in areas where 6 feet of social distancing can't be maintained.

A letter dated Sept. 4 from the Health Department to the fair association noted the directive's 66% capacity limitation must be calculated to allow for keeping people 6 feet apart. The letter said capacity for open-space venues is calculated by subtracting the square footage occupied by the event from the total square footage of the venue and dividing by 36.

Using the more than 46,000 square feet of the main arena floor as an example, the Health Department set capacity at 859 people, or 66% of the 1,302 capacity that allows for 6 feet of distance between each person.

The fair association's calculation put the arena floor's capacity at 2,063, or 66% of the capacity determined by the Morning Star Fire Department. Other building and venue capacities submitted by the fair association were also two-thirds of capacities determined by the fire department.

Fairground gates will be closed once capacity is reached, according to the fair association's plan.

"We will be marking distances of at least 6 feet off for people to stand at entrances, bathrooms and concessions," the plan said. "In addition, we will be blocking off every other row of seating and marking seating areas 6 feet apart. Maintaining social distancing of at least 6 feet will be enforced, and we will also be monitoring these areas for compliance.

"Families that have been quarantined together or those traveling together are permitted to sit with each other during events in groups of 10 or smaller; all others will comply with the 6-feet distance requirement. Performers will be a minimum of 12 feet away from the spectators."

The plan said sanitizing stations will be set up at building and arena entrances and exits, and the facility will be disinfected before and after each event. Attendees will be asked to provide their contact information in case they need to be notified about a COVID-19 outbreak at the fair.

According to a schedule provided by the fair association, the event kicks off Friday and Saturday with a demolition derby at 7 p.m. On Sept. 15, a car show will be held from 5-9 p.m. Essential workers and first responders will be honored during the show.

"There will be a lot of things to honor our heroes that work every day," Darius Melton, a member of the fair association, said.

A rodeo will be held at 7 p.m. Sept. 18-19, and a livestock show will held at 6 p.m. Sept. 14-17.

"We can't have a carnival or that sort of thing," Melton said. "We have a wide range of things we're trying to do in order to get people to turn out for the fair and have a night we don't have to worry about all of the problems we have in the world right now."

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