The Brunswick Exchange Club’s 69th annual fair, set for Nov. 10-14, will look a little different.
None of the indoor activities usually associated with the fair will be offered this year due to COVID-19.
“There will be no craft barn this year, there will be no vendors this year, there will be nothing inside at all,” said Gary Wise, Exchange Club chairman.
The club also made the decision to cut out the gallery of art by school children and the petting zoo, both of which are indoor attractions.
Minimizing the chances of COVID-19 spreading at the fair will be a team effort, Wise said.
The College of Coastal Georgia is providing students from its nursing program to check temperatures and look for COVID-19 symptoms at the fairgrounds ticket gate. Anyone with a fever or other obvious symptoms will be turned away, as will those with them.
“They hang around each other, obviously, so the whole group’s got to leave,” Wise said.
Modern Midways, an Illinois-based company providing the carnival attractions, has its own health and safety procedures in place to combat coronavirus which the owner, Robert Briggs, worked with the state Department of Public Health to develop, Wise said.
The company will provide sanitation stations, regular cleaning of rides and equipment and employee health checks. Ride operators will remind everyone to keep an appropriate distance from others.
Wise said the carnival will take up more space. Attractions will be spaced out to facilitate social distancing.
“It will look a lot bigger, but there will be about the same number of rides,” Wise said.
A lot of effort has gone into developing a plan to keep fair-goers safe, he said, but at the beginning of the year, it was not a sure thing.
“There was some talk of canceling the fair, yes,” Wise said.
The COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S. occurred in March followed by a statewide shelter-in-place order through the month of May. Restrictions on public gatherings were put in place after the order expired, but no one knew at the time when they’d be eased enough to allow an event like the fair.
Gov. Brian Kemp extended some restrictions through Nov. 15, but lifted a cap on gatherings “if (participants’) grouping is transitionary or incidental, or if their grouping is the result of being spread across more than one single location.”
Wise believes the event meets that criteria.
“If we didn’t think we could put it on safely, we wouldn’t be doing it,” Wise said.
Brunswick’s Exchange Club chapter puts on a few events every year, including the annual turkey shoot and Rodeo at the Beach, but the fair is one of the big money-makers.
A good chunk of the proceeds goes to one of many charitable initiatives, which was the primary motivation for not canceling it. The fair alone can end up putting $25,000 to $30,000 back into the community by Wise’s calculations.
“We’re excited to have the fair. We think we’ll have a good crowd Friday and Saturday night especially. People are tired of being cooped up,” Wise said.
Lower priced advance fair tickets are on sale at a variety of locations around town.
For information on ticket prices or places to buy advance tickets, visit exchangeclubofbrunswick.org.