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Staff file photo / Visitors walk past livestock pens at a previous Hamilton County Fair. The 2020 fair is being canceled due to concerns over the ability to maintain social distancing during the coronavirus.

Add the Hamilton County Fair to the list of events canceled by the coronavirus.

The Hamilton County Parks and Recreation Department announced Monday that the agricultural festival normally held the last full weekend of September at Chester Frost Park in Hixson will not be held this year.

In a statement, county General Services Administrator Lee Norris explained the decision came after consultations with the people who provide services to the fair.

"We discussed this with our vendors, exhibitors and sponsors and came to the conclusion they held the same view as us, [that] in this era of the pandemic, a fair at Chester Frost's Dallas Island that usually draws large crowds would not be in the best interest of anyone," Norris said.

He said park officials have had several discussions about whether the fair could be held safely, following the guidelines for social distancing and other measures established through Gov. Bill Lee's executive orders and the Tennessee Pledge.

Among the points of concern was how fairgoers would arrive at the park. When the weather is nice, the two-day fair typically draws more than 50,000 people, most of whom are transported by shuttle buses from Northgate Mall and the Middle Valley Recreation Center due to limited parking at the site.

The ability to socially distance and still get people to the park appeared "very challenging," the statement said.

Also affected has been the loss of lead time for coordinating the festival, which includes music, food vendors, arts and crafts and an array of agricultural activities, many involving children involved in county 4H clubs.

"There's a lot of planning that goes into it," said Nancy Rucker, Hamilton County agent/director of the University of Tennessee/Tennessee State University Extension service. "It's not anything that can be quickly planned. And then there's the strategic planning [this year] to make sure people are safe."

Norris said officials "remain 100% committed to holding an annual county fair" and look forward to returning in the fall of 2021.

Email Lisa Denton at ldenton@timesfreepress.com.

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