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The board of directors for the Arkansas Livestock Show Association, which produces the annual Arkansas State Fair, announced Friday that it had canceled the 2020 event due to COVID-19.
The annual event, one of the state’s biggest attractions, had been scheduled for Oct. 16–25 at the state fairgrounds in Little Rock. Organizers said the fair draws an average of 450,000 visitors per year.
General Manager Doug White said it was the first time the fair had been canceled since World War II. While the board voted to cancel the fair, it left the door open for a possible livestock show during those same 10 days in October.
“We have been closely monitoring COVID-19 data from local, state and federal health officials for the past few months, and we determined that it was in the best interest of the safety of our patrons, staff and our many sponsors to cancel this year’s fair,” White said in a news release. “We always want to produce the best fair possible for the state of Arkansas and we felt we could not do that with the multitude of restrictions we would have to put in place.”
Board Chairman Bruce Maloch said the health and safety of all involved with the fair was the top priority in the decision.
“We host well over 400,000 patrons every October and we want every single person to feel safe on our fairgrounds,” Maloch said. “Given the nature of a normal fair environment, we decided the most responsible decision we could make would be to take this year off and come back bigger and better than ever in 2021.”
Maloch said it will continue to explore options for a livestock show.
“We’re extremely disappointed to cancel the 2020 event, but we still have hopes of hosting a junior livestock show in October,” he said. “If we do work out a plan for a livestock show, of course, we’ll practice all safety protocols including mandatory masks, social distancing and hand-washing stations.”
The 2021 Arkansas State Fair is scheduled for Oct. 15-24.