They missed the kids....the missed the crowds....they missed the money. County fairs that were silenced last year are making measured comebacks this year, hoping to rekindle decades-old traditions, and, make back hundreds of thousands of dollars in losses.
"Well, about a quarter of a million dollars and we get no subsidy at all from the grants, because everybody here is a volunteer so we don't qualify for any kind of assistance," says Gerry Elthorp, Treasurer and Director of the Herkimer County Fair. The fair will happen this year, August 17th-22nd. But Elthorp isn't yet sure what it will look like.
"We have no idea. Nobody's given us any criteria other than the 50% capacity. At this point, mask issue's up in the air, everything's kind of up in the air," says Elthorp. "We're waiting for guidance on occupancy, mask issue, ticket issue, can we handle money at the gates, that kind of thing."
One thing Elthorp is pretty sure of: people missed the fair, and will attend.
"I think people have just had enough and they want to get out."
Uncertainty takes top billing at the Boonville/Oneida County Fair, too. The event is slated for July 27th - August 1st. While the governor has declared that the NYS Fair must be entirely outdoors, Boonville/Oneida County Fair organizers hope their agricultural fair will be able to have some vendors and activities indoors. Fair goers are already inquiring.
"I had a family the other day ask me at Lowe's when I was going into Lowe's, 'you are gonna have cows, aren't you'?" says Boonville/Oneida County Fair President, David Hyatt. Hyatt waits for guidance from the state about the big show.
"It all has to do with our show, Jo Dee Messina and Mark Wills, how many people we can have on the track and in the stands," says Hyatt. "What we have to do is make enough money to be able to pay for the act."
While county fair organizers have three to four months to plan, Memorial Day parade organizers have about four weeks.
"We really need to have this parade. The community is looking forward to it now. I understand the stuff that we've gone through with the pandemic. Last year was just a nightmare, we canceled both Memorial Day and Veterans Day," says Whitesboro Memorial Day Parade Chairman, Dave Glenn. Without the luxury of time, Glenn had no choice but to start planning, and wait for guidance.
"The fire departments, they have to be notified before their monthly meeting and the majority of our meetings are the first week of the month, which is next week," says Glenn. "Then we have to send letters to elected officials to see what their schedules are like."
Like other fairs and parades, the comeback will be measured.
"I'm waiting to hear back from the bagpiper but the school band cannot participate, ok, I get it, and the Red Band, which we normally have, as of right now they can't participate," says Glenn.
After a year of devastating financial losses and interrupted traditions, most fair and parade organizers are willing to deal with a little uncertainty if it means resuming summer nights at the fair, and, spring and summer days along the parade route.
"I'm hoping, I'm hoping the governor says, 'ok, let's do the parades because the public, the community needs it'".