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Field Days will not require masks

I think that every person is an individual and they have to do what’s right for themselves and their family. We want people to come and have a good time, and if they still feel unsafe, they can wear masks. And if they want to give this year a pass, then we welcome them next year.
—Diane Norris, President of Addison County Fair and Field Days

NEW HAVEN — Masks, social distancing measures and vaccinations will not be required for attendees of Addison County Fair and Field Days, which is returning to New Haven Aug. 10-14 after the county’s biggest agricultural event took a year off due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

But the laissez-faire approach doesn’t mean that fair organizers are skipping precautions altogether.

Hand sanitizer dispensers will be set up outside of the entrance buildings at the fair.

The fair’s emergency building will require masks.

All of the fair’s employees will be required to be vaccinated, and a station at the Paquette Building run by Porter Hospital employees will be administering free Johnson & Johnson vaccines for attendees every day from 10 a.m.-6 p.m.

“We are following the governor’s mandate,” Addison County Fair and Field Days Business Manager Cara Mullin said. “Everything is a recommendation, nothing is required.”

This decision made by the Fair and Field Days board not to require masks or social distancing follows Gov. Phil Scott’s June 14 mandate lifting all social distancing and mask requirements for Vermonters, which he signed after 80% of the state’s population received their first vaccination.

The coronavirus’s highly contagious Delta variant and growing instances of breakthrough cases of COVID-19 — when a vaccinated person comes down with the disease — have caused the Center for Disease Control to recommend that vaccinated people wear masks indoors in certain parts of the country, though not Vermont.

The Fair and Field Days board said that although they encourage unvaccinated and cautious fairgoers to wear a mask, they will not require masks for unvaccinated people in either the outdoor or indoor areas of the fair.

“If the governor changes his mandate, then we will follow it,” Mullin said. “That’s what we’re basing our guidelines on.”

Fair and Field Days President Diane Norris said she understood why prospective fairgoers concerned about breakthrough cases of the Delta variant might be hesitant to attend this year’s Field Days.

“I think that every person is an individual and they have to do what’s right for themselves and their family,” Norris said. “We want people to come and have a good time, and if they still feel unsafe, they can wear masks. And if they want to give this year a pass, then we welcome them next year.”

Benj Deppman, the vice president of Fair and Field Days, argued that even if the Field Days board pushed more strongly on social distancing and masks, the orders would be harder to implement due to Gov. Scott’s lifting the masks mandate.

“We are hoping we have taken proper measures,” Deppman said. “We feel like we are taking the steps that are prudent and reasonable given the governor’s comment and the CDC recommendation.

“Many people have felt more comfortable as the governor lifted more restrictions. But I completely respect if some people aren’t at that point yet. It doesn’t mean we impose restrictions that are very difficult to enforce.”

Deppman also suggested that fairgoers concerned with COVID could in some cases distance themselves without the board imposing more rules.

“There will be crowds for things like Demolition Derby and some of these other shows,” Deppman said. “If someone is uncomfortable, we certainly want them to keep their distance. The grounds are big and there’s a lot of space, so people could go to all of the shows and not be too close to any other person.”

LOOKING FORWARD

Although masks and social distancing measures won’t be implemented at Fair and Field Days, the event’s planners look forward to putting on the event after more than a year of social distancing.

“I kind of like the tractor pulls and the Demo Derby,” Norris said when asked what her favorite event at the fair is. “I also enjoy all of the dairy shows.”

Norris is coordinating the Demolition Derby this year, and one of her hopes is that the weather forecast will be decent for the derby, as well as other events.

“If you have a magic wand and give us perfect weather, I would be happy with that,” she joked.

Mullin did not take it well last year when Fair and Field Days was canceled due to the pandemic.

“(It was) devastating,” she said. “It’s an annual tradition that my community and friends and family go to. We missed out to have that one special thing taken, which was devastating.”

But with Fair and Field Days happening in less than three weeks, Mullin said she feels “ecstatic.”

Deppman also expressed relief with Field Days returning to Addison County.

“I think we all feel positive, we all feel favorable,” Deppman said. “It’s the right thing to do.”

John Vaaler is at [email protected].

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