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York fair canceled for the first time since 1918

York Fair in West Manchester Township, Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2019. Dawn J. Sagert photo

The York State Fair has been canceled for the 2020 season amid coronavirus concerns.

After a meeting Tuesday, the fair board decided on the cancellation — a historic move, as the fair has not been canceled since 1918, when the Spanish Flu pandemic hit.

“There were many factors in reaching this decision including Governor Tom Wolf’s statement last week that a packed Grandstand would create a problem," said Bryan Blair, CEO of the York Fair and York Expo Center, in a news release Wednesday.

This year's event was set to be the first since the fair rebranded itself as the York State Fair and moved from a fall event to a summer one. It had been scheduled to kick off July 24. 

In 2019, more than 500,000 people passed through the gates at the fair over 10 days. 

Blair said not knowing when the county would move into Gov. Tom Wolf's "green phase" of reopening posed potential issues for the fair and its organizers. It's possible 4-H programs would be delayed until late summer and restrictions would likely be placed on fair attendees.

More:PHOTOS: A look at the coronavirus pandemic in York County

Organizing restrictions such as one-way traffic through buildings, limiting vendors and creating social distancing procedures, were not possible on short notice, he said.

Other major fairs have also canceled, which Blair said might have an impact on shows routing into or out of the fair. 

When reached Wednesday, fair spokesperson Brianna Holmes said a postponement of the York State Fair to the fall — the fair's usual time slot — would have been impossible at this point.

"There’s so many working pieces that go into the fair," Holmes said.

Routing plans for many of the midway rides, concessions and vendors are planned a year in advance, and they are often booked at other fairs the week before or after, so changing the dates would mean they might not be able to make it, she said.

"We don’t want to not be able to put the same caliber of fair together," she said.

It's a huge disappointment, fair officials said, as the event was poised to have a successful year.

More:With many fairs canceled by coronavirus, 4-H helps kids market livestock themselves

More:York Fair will move to summer in 2020

"Concert ticket sales were going to surpass records, a new midway was going to bring back tradition to the Fair, and it was the first year with a new name and date," according to the news release.

“It is easy to say that we were ready to produce a Fair that York has not seen in decades,” Blair said.

Holmes was not aware of the financial impact to this year's cancellation as of Wednesday, but said vendors renting space from the fair would be refunded.

Fair officials are in the process of negotiating terms with entertainers and concerts scheduled on the grandstand stage for July 23 through August 1, 2021.

Holmes said fair officials are making every effort to book the same acts next year. 

Updates will be announced at a later date and communicated with ticket holders. Fair officials are negotiating with ticket provider Etix to provide either rescheduled shows, exchanges for future concerts or refunds.

 More information on the planning of the 2021 fair will be released in the coming months.

"We appreciate everyone’s understanding and support through these difficult and unprecedented times," officials stated.