ALBEMARLE — The Stanly County Fair has been a long-standing tradition in the area, never missing a year since it started 85 years ago. But with COVID-19 shutting down virtually all large events in the state, that streak has come to an end.
Cal Massingale, the fair manager, told Stanly County Journal in a Sept. 22 interview that the fair would have been scheduled for this week.
“I think most of the fairs in North Carolina canceled, in fact,” Massingale said. He said with all the other events canceled, Gov. Roy Cooper’s regulations on large gatherings and the possibility of an outbreak, they decided taking a year off was the right move.
“We didn’t want to endanger folks,” he said. “There’s no way that we could control social distancing in a situation like that. So we just thought it’d be better to cancel this year.”
The fair has been held without fail since its founding, regardless of wars, natural disasters or economic downturns.
Massingale said, “To my knowledge there’s never been a year that it was canceled. We’ve tried to go back as far as we could in history, but we couldn’t find any information that said that the fair had ever been canceled prior to this.”
While Massingale said “it was a struggle” to make the decision, even the N.C. State Fair, which he says hasn’t canceled in 42 years, called off their event.
When asked if they have any replacement or virtual events planned, like other organizations have attempted, Massingale said, “We really don’t.”
Because the fair is a major fundraiser for the American Legion post which manages the fairgrounds, there will be some lost revenue. But Massingale said they are continuing to offer the fairgrounds for smaller events like weddings and banquets. This weekend there will be an NRA banquet, and next month, there will be a gun show and an N.C. Coon Hunters Association dog show.
“We’ve had the fire marshall come in and measure the square footage,” Massingale said. “So we can have up to 225 people in the building and still meet social distancing requirements.”
The fair’s cancelation has a big impact on the area and removes a source of entertainment and social life, but Massingale hopes they can bring it back full strength soon.
“We’re hoping it’ll bounce back and be as they were, but I’m not sure. After the impact that this [COVID-19] has had, I think it’ll be a number of years before things get back to what we would have considered normal last year,” he said. “It’s unfortunate that we had to cancel the fair. We were of course looking forward to having it, and having the entertainment. But hopefully we’ll be back next year.”