After a couple of stutter-starts, the on again-off again George County Fair/Carnival is back on for next week, beginning Tuesday, October 12 and running through Saturday, October 17.
The fair will go on with a revised name for this year, the George County Carnival.
This year’s carnival will look different because of COVID-19, with the problems associated with social distancing and the risk of spreading the disease.
The George County Fair has been hosted by the George County Rotary Club for the past 40 years. It is a significant fundraising event for the Rotary Club. This year, because of the COVID-19 pandemic and restrictions placed on public gatherings and events by Governor Tate Reeves, the fair looks like it might go the way of many other events this year – just not happen.
In mid-August Rotary Club president Doug Lee came before the George County Board of Supervisors and told the Board the fair would be held as planned. In the meantime, Jackson County and several other counties across the state chose not to hold their fairs.
State Agriculture Commissioner Andy Gipson announced the state fairgrounds were large enough to accommodate social distancing for an outdoor event, and the state fair would be held as scheduled.
Vinson Amusements, which provides the carnival, notified the Rotary Club that social distancing and COVID-19 health precautions would be employed.
The Rotary Club had a change of heart as the pandemic continued and in a vote held by members they chose not to host the fair for this one year.
A big part of the fair is the arts and crafts exhibits and the livestock shows, put on by the Mississippi State Extension Service and George County 4-H. Those events were scheduled to go on as planned, according to Extension Advisor Heath Steede, but with restricted MSU guidelines.
When the fair was cancelled, Steede said the George County Jr. Livestock Association elected to hold the livestock show and host the sale of champions. The youngsters who participate in the livestock show were already deeply invested with both time and money in their respective livestock projects and a cancellation did not seem fair. Steede made a commitment to hold some kind of livestock show even if it had to be done virtually. It was finally decided to hold a one-day show in the Swine Building of the George County Fairgrounds on Saturday, October 17. The show will begin at about 2 p.m. with a Sale of Champions at 7 p.m. The weeklong livestock exhibits and the arts and craft shows were cancelled.
Last week Vinson Amusements contacted the county and asked if there was any way they could still come and set up their carnival. Negotiations began with Vinson agreeing to pay the County a fee of 25-percent of the ride revenue or $8,000, whichever is greater.
On Monday, at their regularly scheduled board meeting, the George County Board of Supervisors approved hosting a George County Carnival event that will kick off next Tuesday and run through Saturday. On Saturday, in the adjacent Swine Building, the Jr. Livestock Association will host a livestock show and judging with a sale of champions.
For all intents and purposes, it will look and feel like a somewhat COVID-19 altered county fair. With any luck at all, next year the George County Fair, with all of its events, color and excitement will return to normal and will again be hosted by the Rotary Club.