IONIA, Mich. — This summer's Ionia Free Fair has been canceled due to the coronavirus.
The Ionia Free Fair Board of Directors voted this week to cancel the 2020 fair, which was slated to take place from July 16-25, according to the fair today.
The board cited concerns over "the uncertainty of the COVID-19 crisis," as well as the challenge of following health, safety and social distancing guidelines.
The Ionia Free Fair has not been canceled in its entirety since World War II.
“It was the toughest decision we’ve ever made as a board,” said Lisa Sanford, an Ionia veterinarian and the fair’s board president.
“The fair represents so much for our community — a sense of pride, an important and festive community gathering, an economic impact and inter-generational fun for so many people. To see us have to cancel it this year when we would have celebrated our 105th fair, just didn’t seem right, but ultimately, we all knew it was the right thing to do.”
Sanford said the board spent several weeks mapping out ways to still have a smaller version of the fair.
“There were too many factors beyond our control that led us to make this decision,” Sanford said.
“Even if all current restrictions were lifted, we struggled with the fact that the fair would have to take into account some sense of social distancing and then the question of how to ensure that all the rides were being properly disinfected on a regular basis.
"These practices are all new to us. Yet, they have become the norm. The safety and health of our community were paramount in our decision.”
In recent years, the Ionia Free Fair said it has attracted more than 300,000 visitors over the 10-day event, with between 40-45% traveling from the Lansing area and across West Michigan.
“As a board, we just didn’t think it was fair to any of our loyal fairgoers — from around the region — to delay making this tough decision any longer,” said Kirk Wolthuis, acting fair manager and VP of the fair board.
The board has also started "the tough task" of putting together its plan for the 2021 Ionia Free Fair.
“We’ll be back in 2021, stronger, more vibrant and ready for a community-wide celebration that will more than make up for this year,” Sanford said.