See you at the fair … in 2021: Three County Fair cancels event for visitors, exhibitors still welcome 

  • James Przypek, general manager of the Three County Fair in Northampton, talks about significantly scaling back the event this year to include exhibitors but not visitors, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • James Przypek, general manager of the Three County Fair in Northampton, sits in the empty fair stands and talks about significantly scaling back the event this year to include exhibitors but not visitors, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “It is truly an agricultural event,” he said. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • James Przypek, general manager of the Three County Fair in Northampton, talks about significantly scaling back the event this year to include exhibitors but not visitors, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • James Przypek, general manager of the Three County Fair in Northampton, sits in the empty fair stands and talks about significantly scaling back the event this year to include exhibitors but not visitors, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “It is truly an agricultural event,” he said. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Carson Bisbee, 9, leads Lucky, his milking shorthorn yearling, to the washing area at his home in Chesterfield, Tuesday. His mother, Faith, looks on. Lucky is Carson’s entry in this year’s 4-H competition at the Three County Fair. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Carson Bisbee, 9, washes Lucky, his milking shorthorn yearling, with the help of his sister, Brooke, 7, Tuesday, July 21, 2020 at his home in Chesterfield. Lucky is his entry in this year's 4-H competition at the Three County Fair. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Carson Bisbee, 9, gets in some nuzzle time with Lucky, his milking shorthorn yearling, Tuesday, July 21, 2020 at his home in Chesterfield. Lucky is his entry in this year's 4-H competition at the Three County Fair. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Carson Bisbee, 9, washes Lucky, his milking shorthorn yearling, Tuesday, July 21, 2020 at his home in Chesterfield. Lucky is his entry in this year's 4-H competition at the Three County Fair. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Carson Bisbee, 9, washes Lucky, his milking shorthorn yearling, Tuesday, July 21, 2020 at his home in Chesterfield. Lucky is his entry in this year's 4-H competition at the Three County Fair. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Faith Bisbee helps her daughter, Brooke, 7, practice setting the topline on Carson Bisbee's cow, Lucky, at their home in Chesterfield, Tuesday, July 21, 2020. Carson will enter Lucky in this year's 4-H competition at the Three County Fair. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Bristol, a Jersey fall calf, grazes at Clay Hill Farm in Chesterfield, Tuesday, July, 21, 2020. She will be entered by Brooke Bisbee, 7, in this year's 4-H competition at the Three County Fair. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

Staff Writer
Published: 7/21/2020 2:49:40 PM

NORTHAMPTON — The dairy shows at the Three County Fair are typically a family affair, according to Faith Bisbee, who started showing cows at the fair as a kid and now organizes the fair’s dairy department.

Those in farm families often have an “entourage” of family members spanning generations come to cheer them on as they show off their livestock. 

But not this year. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Labor Day weekend fair will not be open to the public, and organizers are planning a fair only for exhibitors, said the organization that manages the fair — the Hampshire, Franklin and Hampden Agricultural Society —  in an announcement Monday. Visitors coming for the rides, fried dough and demolition derby will have to wait until September 2021. 

“We did our due diligence and prepared to operate with new measures in place for fairgoer safety and held out as long as we could, but the large venue restrictions make the originally scheduled fair improbable,” James Przypek, general manager of the Three County Fair, said in a statement.

This year, the Three County Fair “2.0” will have a maximum capacity of 100 people in the outdoor space, per Gov. Charlie Baker’s reopening plans, Przypek said while sitting in the empty fair stands on Tuesday morning. Everyone will be required to wear a mask, he noted.

Some agricultural contests will occur for the exhibitors — including shows of oxen, cows and rabbits — but there will be no spectators.

Last year, the fair drew just under 40,000 people, according to Przypek. Much of the fair’s income is from ticket sales, and he estimates the financial loss for the fair this year will be around $500,000.

The fair, which claims it is the oldest continuously running agricultural fair in the country, has weathered other storms in its centuries-long history, said Przypek. “Between World Wars, the Civil War and other pandemics, we’ve had to adjust accordingly.” One year, he said, a tornado hit the grounds days before the fair began.

It was a difficult decision, but in some ways, the fair is returning to its roots this year, said Przypek. “This truly is an agricultural fair,” he said of this year’s scaled-back event. “Like, our first one.” 

“At the heart of it, it was an agricultural fair when it started way back,” Bisbee said. Now, it’s different. “The cow barns are over to the side. It gets trumped by the rides and the vendors.”

She’s glad the fair is planning to offer some livestock competitions. Her two kids, who are 9 and 7, plan to show cows this year. “A lot of the kids have worked really hard with their animals.”  

But, Bisbee said, “It will be really different to not have that family aspect to it.”

Greta Jochem can be reached at gjochem@gazettenet.com.


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