TOPSFIELD — America's oldest county fair will not go on this year, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Essex Agricultural Society, the organization that runs the Topsfield Fair, announced Wednesday that this year's fair has been canceled. A statement said it was a difficult decision, but one made for the safety of fairgoers, staff, volunteers, vendors, exhibitors, and sponsors.
Fair General Manager James O'Brien explained, in a statement, that the society's board of directors has been monitoring the pandemic over the past few months, and that based on recommendations from local, state and federal health agencies, they made the decision to cancel.
“We understand the impact of this decision for small businesses, family farms, competitors, and exhibitors and the disappointment of hundreds of thousands of people who look forward to the Topsfield Fair each year," said O'Brien. "However, the safety and health of our community has to be our top priority and due to the current restrictions, hosting the Topsfield Fair this year is impossible.
“As our scheduled opening day got closer it became clear that we could not create a fun, safe, and enjoyable experience that fairgoers have come to expect and deserve,” O'Brien said.
This is just the third time in the history of the fair, which first began in 1818, that it's been canceled. The other two times were in 1918 when all agricultural fairs in the state were canceled due to the Spanish flu pandemic, and again during 1943 to 1945 for World War II, according to the announcement. When the fair returned in 1946, it opened to record-breaking attendance.
“We are looking at the potential of hosting some of our contests privately to continue that tradition and we will make any contest-related announcements if and when the details are finalized,” O’Brien said. “Everyone associated with the Essex Agricultural Society and the Topsfield Fair looks forward to better days ahead and celebrating the 2021 Topsfield Fair in October 2021.”