TOPSFIELD (CBS) — The 2020 Topsfield Fair, scheduled for the first week of October, has been canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic. Safety concerns and restrictions made it “impossible” for this year’s event to go forward, organizers said.
“We needed this time to get set up. Things seemed to be going in the wrong direction. We wanted to make sure our vendors are safe, our volunteers are safe, and we just couldn’t come up with a way forward,” Topsfield Fair general manager James O’Brien said.
The Essex Agricultural Society, the organization that runs the Topsfield Fair, announces that for the safety of fairgoers, staff, volunteers, vendors, exhibitors, and sponsors, it has made the difficult decision to cancel this year’s Topsfield Fair. pic.twitter.com/UdJb9W0FkG
— Topsfield Fair (@TopsfieldFair) July 29, 2020
About 500,000 people go to the fair every year, which hosts 200 vendors, employs 300 people and has 700 volunteers.
For Woody Lancaster, it will be the first time in 25 years won’t show off his giant pumpkins at the fair.
“Sad. I mean, we work all year long to do this, and the fair is a big deal to us,” he said. “For us, it’s like the Super Bowl of pumpkin growing.”
It’s just one of many fall events that have been canceled in New England. Ivy League fall sports, the Head of the Charles Regatta and The Big E have all been canceled.
The pumpkin weigh-in is a highlight of the fair.
“Locally, it’s a big deal,” Lancaster said. “It’s a one-night event but it means a whole lot to us.”
However, for others, it’s a big part of their livelihood, O’Brien said.
“I have to say that for this year, it was their last hope. For our vendors, they’re going to be hurting. For a lot of them, this is their big fundraiser for the year,” O’Brien said. “[Vendors are] used to rainy fairs, great fairs, not-so-great fairs. That’s all part of the business. But to not operate at all, I don’t think they’re going to have the ability to hang in there.”
The event bills itself as “America’s Oldest Fair.” It has only been canceled three other times since beginning in 1818 – once during the Civil War, once in 1918 because of a worldwide flu pandemic and again from 1943-1945 for World War II.
The fair is looking at potentially hosting some of its famous contests, like the heaviest pumpkin competition, privately.