116th Kentucky State Fair opens, like never before


LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WTVQ) – The 116th Kentucky State Fair begins Thursday, but newcomers and veteran fair-goers alike will find one almost like never before. And many say they hope it is once in a life time.

On Aug. 6, the State Fair Board announced the 2020 event would be limited to competitors only. Fans accustomed to watching the shows, exhibits and entertainment will have to do without. But youth livestock shows and the 2020 Kentucky State Fair World Championship Horse Show will go on and fans can watch some of them virtually.

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There will be a limited amount of assisting family members also allowed inside, according the state fair officials. And almost all outdoor events, rides, food vendors, and craft vendors have been canceled.

And those attending will have to meet strict safety requirements. Masks are mandatory. Anyone with a temperature over 99.5 won’t be allowed in. Capacity will be reduced more than 80 percent.


FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – Kentucky’s mask-wearing mandate to fight the coronavirus spread is extended for 30 days, Gov. Andy Beshear announced Thursday, confirming what he has been saying would happen. He also extended the 10-person limit on neighborhood and family gatherings.

In addition, the Kentucky State Fair now will only be for competitors with no entertainment, vendors or other outside activities, according to Beshear and Fair Board President Steve Wilson.

On the masks, Beshear said he expects to extend the masks mandate every 30 days until some significant change in the numbers occur.

“I can certainly see extending it until we have significant control over the virus. I would like to see our positivity rate well south of 4 percent. We also want to see what kind of effect it is having, we may find we can do some other things, open other things, expand capacities if we keep wearing them,” Beshear stated.

On the State Fair, Beshear said the decision to limit it to participants was, “The right thing to do.”

The State Fair is set Aug. 20-30 at the Expo Center in Louisville.

“All the agriculture-related competitions are still going to happen, the 4-H-type shows and events,” Beshear noted. “Those are the ones we want to preserve.

Entry to the Fair will be to “credentialed participants” only, Wilson said.

While people can attend the Kentucky Kingdom which is “right across the street” from the Fairgrounds in Kentucky, they will not be able to enter the Fair to stroll the Midway or take part in other events like they traditionally have been able to do.

“People can go to Kentucky Kingdom, but they can’t come to the Fair unless they are a participant, people who have credentials,” Wilson said.

“We are one of only a few states that are going to have any kind of Fair at all,” added Beshear, noting it will have a “big economic impact” on the Fair Board and tourism.

“Tourism everywhere has taken a hit,” the governor added, saying the state hopes a change in federal rules or new federal funding will allow the state to help offset some of those losses with financial resources.

The World Championship Horse Show will be held without spectator following national equestrian association and state and federal health standards, Wilson said.

The fair will feature wider aisle ways, reduced occupancy, increased hygiene accessibility and facial covering requirements. In an effort to manage crowds and social distancing, Lot A exhibits, Midway, concerts, entertainment and food vendors will not be featured in this year’s fair.

“By hosting a participant-only event, fair officials can more effectively enforce social distancing and facial covering requirements as well as gather the necessary information to perform contact tracing,” said Beshear. “I appreciate the board’s willingness to be agile, and their efforts to ensure that the health and safety of Kentuckians remains a top priority.”

“We are proud that we are having the fair, but obviously the health and safety of our community is uppermost in our minds and we’re delighted that we will at least be able to have the horse show and livestock contestants, the 4H-ers and the FFA kids,” said Wilson.

Agriculture is one of the state’s leading and most vital industries. There are nearly 76,000 farms in Kentucky, contributing about $45.6 billion to Kentucky’s economy each year.