‘Gut-wrenching’: Cummington Fair canceled for 2020

  • Fred Howes of Ashfield drives a 1937 Silver King in the Antique Tractor Parade in 2017. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Saturday, May 30, 2020

CUMMINGTON — The historic Cummington Fair has been canceled this summer after organizers determined it could not be held safely during the pandemic.

The board of directors of the Hillside Agricultural Society, which runs the agricultural fair and manages the fairgrounds, voted Wednesday night to not have any events on the fairgrounds until Jan. 1, 2021. The fair, which has run continuously for the past 151 years, was scheduled for Aug. 27-30.

“With the social distancing recommendations, we couldn’t put on a safe venue,” said Karen Rida, a member of the board of directors and the fair’s secretary.

The vote, taken during a videoconference, was 15-0, with the other two members of the board unable to make it.

Rida described her feelings about the fair being canceled as “gut-wrenching.”

The board’s decision also means that other events scheduled to take place at the fairgrounds this year won’t happen, including the Massachusetts Renaissance Faire and the Hampshire County 4-H Fair.

Rida’s family has been showing cattle at the Cummington Fair for five generations. The cows that her children and grandchildren now show are primarily of the milking shorthorn and Ayrshire breeds. She said a number of kids have gotten animals for the fair season and won’t be able to show them.

“It really breaks my heart,” Rida said. “They have to realize we did this to protect them.”

She said the directors felt that families would not have been able to enjoy the fair with the kinds of restrictions that would have been required.

“We could not create what we’ve always created for the last 151 years at this time,” Rida said.

Although she believes the fair has never been canceled before, it was shut down early previously as a result of Hurricane Irene. The 2021 fair is scheduled to run Aug. 26-29.