Board scales back 2020 fair to youth exhibitors only

IMLAY CITY — Because of continuing COVID-19 concerns and restrictions, the 2020 Eastern Michigan State Fair is being pared down to a per-day, youth exhibitor-only “Show & Go Showcase.”

As a result, the 2020 Fair will not include the traditional carnival and rides, grandstand events, livestock auction or traditional fair cuisine.

Fair Manager Ian Kempf reported that Fair Board members voted unanimously on Tuesday, June 30 to adopt the scaled-back format for this year’s event, which had been scheduled to take place at the fairgrounds in Imlay City from July 28-Aug. 1.

Kempf said the new format follows “Phase 2” guidelines Lapeer County is under as set forth by State of Michigan’s Safe Start, and the Governor’s latest Executive Orders.

Youth can still show their livestock projects at the 2020 fair but no animals will be housed on the grounds that week and the number of show spectators will be limited.


The following is the Eastern Michigan State Fair’s mission statement, which states: “It is our responsibility to keep our youth foremost in our practices and decisions.”

As such, Kempf said the Board was committed to offering youth exhibitors an opportunity to be seen by a judge with their animals.

“Each species of animals shown at the fair will have a revised schedule and a one-day show during the originally scheduled fair dates (July 28-August 1) to allow youth to participate,” Kempf said.

“Exhibitors will keep their animals in their trailers until it is their time to show. After showing, exhibitors will depart with their animal projects.”

Kempf said the number of in-person supporters and spectators will be “extremely limited,” and exhibitors will be sent specific information about their shows via email in July.

“This means there will be no carnival, grandstand events, livestock auction or traditional fair food at this year’s fair,” said Kempf. “The barns will not be opened for visitors to walk through.”

The Fair Board has been in contact with numerous people who serve the community’s health and safety over the past few months, including the Lapeer County Health Department, Imlay City Police Department, Lapeer County Sheriff’s Department and Lapeer County Emergency Management.

“After countless conversations and meetings,” Kempf said, “we had to put our community’s health and the future of the Eastern Michigan State Fair above what our hearts want to do.

“Our goal was to have a live and in-person fair, but with an interview Governor Whitmer did earlier this week, we did not see any way of making that happen. With the state mandate numbers, a live fair simply is not possible.”

All Eastern Michigan State Fair exhibiting families are encouraged to visit the fair website at, and check their emails to stay on top of information regarding their livestock exhibit next steps.

“Thank you for continuing to support your Eastern Michigan State Fair,” Kempf concluded.

Organizers of other local fairs have opted to cancel their 2020 plans or offer virtual-only events. The Armada Fair will not take place in August as it usually does and the St. Clair County 4-H and Youth Fair will allow livestock exhibitors to take part in virtual shows and a virtual auction later this month.

Tom Wearing started at the Tri-City Times in 1989, covering the Village of Capac as a beat reporter. He later served stints as assistant editor and editor. Today, he covers Imlay City and Almont as a staff writer. He enjoys music and plays drums and sings with various musical groups in the Detroit Metropolitan area.