189th edition of the Napanee Fair cancelled for 2020

As always, the Napanee Fair wrapped up a successful season in 2019 with the demolition derby. Though the car pictured above rolled over, the driver walked away with no injury. Photo by Adam Prudhomme.

Adam Prudhomme

A summer tradition for nearly two centuries has been put on pause for 2020 as organizers of the Napanee Fair have opted to cancel this year’s event.

Preparations were well underway for the 189th Napanee Fair when COVID-19 struck, casting doubt on this year’s event, which was scheduled for the Civic Holiday weekend in early August. With time running out and physical distancing measures still in place, the Lennox and Addington Agricultural Society made the decision to officially cancel.

“We were trying to hold off but then we decided we better make a decision and everybody was cancelling around us so finally we came out with the ruling,” said Leonard Austin, who was set to return as the fair’s president this year. “We can’t have a meeting so we can’t talk. We emailed everybody and asked their opinion on what we were going to do with the fair, that’s how we made our decision.”

Lorraine Hay is all smiles as she enjoys the Nemo ride at the World’s Finest midway during the 187th Napanee Fair on Civic Holiday Monday of 2017. The four-day fair attracted more than 8,500 spectators to enjoy a wide range of entertainment and educational displays. Photo by Adam Bramburger.

And with that, the fair older than Canada was shuttered for the year. As far as Austin knows, this is the first time in the history of the fair that Napanee will go a full year without one. They’re certainly not the only community fair, as several across the country have had to do the same and many others will likely follow suit.  

Austin notes it was a tough decision but with so much planning needed to stage a fair, it wouldn’t be possible to go ahead this August, even with the most optimistic of outlooks. 

Attendance for the fair had been up in recent years with Austin estimating they drew over 2,000 visitors a day over the four day event in 2019. 

The cancellation is a huge financial loss for the L&A Agricultural Society, as a typical fair brings in over $15,000. They’re also expected to lose significant revenue with no events likely to take place at the Fairgrounds any time soon.

“Nobody can have more than five people, we can’t rent anything. They were rented throughout the summer,” added Austin.

There are plans in the works for a fundraiser this autumn to help recoup some of those losses, though that’s still in the early planning stages and is completely dependent on what they’re allowed to hold in the wake of COVID-19 safety measures. 

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