The Board of Directors of the Neshoba County Fair Association announced Thursday it has canceled the 2020 fair due to the COVID-19 pandemic and health and safety concerns of its patrons.
"This decision was made with a tremendous amount of thought, discussion and consideration," the board wrote in a statement. "Consultations with the Mississippi Department of Health, other healthcare entities and individuals in the healthcare professions have been ongoing from the onset of the pandemic. The directions from these professionals on guidelines that have been set forth by the Centers for Disease Control that could safely and effectively be followed have been heavily deliberated.
"Equipped with that information, the determination was made that these guidelines could not be followed in a safe and healthy manner within the environment and elements of the Fair. For these reasons, the unfortunate decision has been made to cancel the Fair with no plans to reschedule in 2020."
Cabin construction and maintenance may continue at the fairgrounds, according to the board. The gates will open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. each day, starting Friday, June 5.
The racetrack, pavilion and other Neshoba County Fair Association facilities will be closed effective immediately, the board stated.
Utilities will remain disconnected to the cabin and camper areas. RV and camper patrons whose utility fees have been paid will have their payment rolled over to cover the 2021 event or a refund can be requested through the Fair office, the board stated.
Further comment was declined by the board.
Tim Moore, executive director of Philadelphia-Neshoba County Chamber of Commerce, said the Neshoba County Fair Board made the decision that was best for everyone.
“They weighed all the options, and did the research,” Moore said. “It was a tough decision but the right one for everybody.”
Moore said even though he agrees with the decision to cancel the fair it will affect the area financially.
“You have sales tax that impacts a tri-county area for the whole month of July,” Moore said. “With the Choctaw Fair canceled and now the Neshoba County Fair canceled it will be a huge impact for our area. As far as how big of an impact we won’t know until we get to the end of this.”
Neshoba County Fair, known as “Mississippi’s Giant House Party,” was founded in 1889 and is held annually near Philadelphia, drawing thousands of visitors to the region.
It was scheduled this year for July 24-31.
The nation’s largest campground fair features a variety of activities and attractions, such as live musical entertainment, flat and harness horse races, arts and crafts, livestock competitions, political speakers and more.
The announcement comes a day after the Mississippi Band of Chocktaw Indians announced it was canceling the 2020 Choctaw Indian Fair because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Neshoba County is one of the Mississippi counties considered a hot spot currently for the coronavirus. As of a report posted Wednesday by the Mississippi State Department of Health, the county had 728 cases and 44 deaths. The case count trails only Hinds, Lauderdale and Madison counties in Mississippi.