Hello, Columbia County Fair. We sure are glad to have you back.

The 180th Columbia County Fair makes its return today after a one-year absence due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It runs through Labor Day in Chatham.

For reasons of health and safety, the 2021 fair will feature a somewhat different tone and look.

This year the focus will be on agriculture and local musical acts will take the stage, rather than a headliner.

State and federal guidance governing assembly and distancing has postponed the School Girl Queen Pageant until next year but favorites like the demolition derby, firefighters’ parade, racing pigs, monster tractor pull and Monday’s rodeo are returning.

In addition, several changes have been made to fair policies to enhance safety and improve the experience of attending an event where the focus will be on family-friendly activities.

For the first time, the fair will be an entirely smoke-free event, with smoking of any kind prohibited within the confines of the Chatham Fairground’s enclosed area. Smoking will be permitted only in the parking lots.

Bag checks at all entrance gates will continue to be in place and all bags will be searched. Ice chests, coolers and large bags or storage containers are prohibited. Bags and backpacks larger than 24 inches in length — larger than that considered for personal items — are prohibited.

Leave pets at home. Specially trained service dogs who accompany disabled persons are the only dogs permitted on the fairgrounds.

As of this writing, there is currently no plan to require the wearing of a mask due to the COVID-19 outbreak, although unvaccinated patrons are urged to do so. Hand sanitizer dispensers will be available around the fairgrounds and in each restroom.

Fairgoers are strongly advised to remain aware of changes to health and safety guidance made by the state Department of Health.

The fair runs for six days, plenty of time to take in the sights and sounds. To borrow a line, the Columbia County Fair is back, and after a year without a fair, better than ever.

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Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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