Shutdown of Oklahoma State Fair will be felt economically, but public health of primary concern
The coronavirus pandemic has caused economic disruptions at every level of American life, and the cancellation of the Oklahoma State Fair will be having a major effect on the collective wallet of Oklahoma City and the entire state.
According to the published 2019 Oklahoma City CVB Report, the Oklahoma State Fair generated more than $103.9 million in direct spending.
“The Oklahoma State Fair obviously has a greater economic effect than that but accurate data measuring indirect spending and similar benefits are not readily available; we know collectively that it’s big but just how big nobody can say,” said Dayton Lambert, an agricultural economist with Oklahoma State University’s Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources.
The decision to shut down the 2020 fair was not made lightly, but the paramount issue of public health made the closure the only responsible course of action, said Scott Munz, senior vice president of marketing and sales for Oklahoma State Fair Inc.
“It’s impractical if not impossible to enact social distance at any state fair, and frankly is totally contrary to the experience for which we are known,” he said. “Availability and pricing of some food products – along with some vendors being unable to get their products – also factored into the decision. Looming in the background was the total uncertainty of the current health pandemic and where we would be in September.”
The Oklahoma State Fair is not the only state fair to close in 2020 because of COVID-19 concerns, so have those in Texas, Kansas, New York, Minnesota and Washington, with others almost certain to follow suit.
“We believe it’s important that we do what we can to mitigate the pandemic while supporting one another at the same time,” Munz said. “We know the Oklahoma State Fair is a bright spot on many people’s yearly calendar. The environment just isn’t conducive to following all state, city and CDC guidelines. It’s a public health matter.”
Smaller events wherein state, city and CDC guidelines can be followed are still taking place at State Fair Park, but Munz said even those are subject to change as the public health situation warrants.
OSU’s Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources is comprised of the university’s Ferguson College of Agriculture and two state agencies: OSU Extension and the Oklahoma Agricultural Experiment Station system.