Delaware State Fair concerts canceled for 2020

HARRINGTON — All Delaware State Fair concerts have been canceled due to concerns over the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, fair officials announced Monday.

The state fair itself is still on. However officials are working with the governor’s office on social distancing guidelines and any other changes that may have to happen by the time the event is set to take place on the fairgrounds in Harrington July 23-Aug. 1.

“While no one knows for sure where we will be in late July in terms of Gov. Carney’s plans to reopen Delaware’s economy, one thing for sure is that the M&T Bank Grandstand and Quillen Arena Q-Series concert and show environment are not currently flexible enough to support the concept of social distancing as we understand it” said Delaware State Fair General Manager Bill DiMondi in a prepared statement Monday.

The crowded conditions that go hand-in-hand with M&T Bank Grandstand and Quillen Arena concerts and shows are inconsistent with state mandates under Gov. Carney’s current declaration of a state of emergency due to COVID-19, according to Delaware State Fair President Ron Draper.

Concert performers this year were to include Hank Williams Jr., comedian Jim Gaffigan, country performers Chris Janson and Dierks Bentley and Latin performer Becky G.

The demolition derby, which was scheduled for July 31, has also been canceled. The fate of horse racing night, which is operated by Harrington Raceway and Casino, has not been decided.

Additionally, the Roots and Boots show with Sammy Kershaw, Collin Raye and Aaron Tippin, set for June 13 at the Quillen Arena, also has been canceled.

The fair will provide refunds to all ticket buyers who purchased their tickets directly from the fair. Refunds will follow the purchaser’s original method of payment and should be processed within the next 30 days. For more information, visit the fair’s website at

Fair officials say ticket buyers will be given the opportunity to allot a portion of their refund to support the annual livestock auction, the proceeds of which are received by young exhibitors who sell their market animals at the conclusion of the livestock competition.

In a Facebook Live event Monday, Delaware State Fair Assistant General Manager Danny Aguilar explained that concepts being considered include patron-selected gate admission time periods, giving visitors the opportunity to plan their arrival time on the grounds earlier in the day when attendance counts are low and making available online no-cost ticketing for attractions, like the circus, so that capacity can be safely managed and individual show waiting lines can be minimized.

“Things are going to look different for us as we return back to the norm. And the fair, as we move forward, is going to look very different. We are in fact planning for a fair in 2020,” he said Monday.

“Our goal is to work closely with our state officials to ensure that we provide a very safe environment for families to come and visit our livestock and our exhibitors. Do you want to kettle corn? Our concessions manager has been reaching out and working with individuals vendors to make sure that we are in communication with them. Information is changing. We need to make decisions based on facts, statistics and really working closely with our state officials.”

According to a prepared statement, if permitted to open, the fair plans to manage the number of patrons permitted inside all of the buildings, barns or tents during operating hours “just like the practices recently adopted by many supermarkets and big box retailers.”

Plans also include livestreaming livestock shows and judging events to allow friends and relatives of junior livestock exhibitors the opportunity to “virtually” attend from their homes.

Mr. Aguilar told Facebook Live viewers Monday that those watching can help make the fair a reality by leveling the curve of COVID-19 infections.

“Work hard by practicing social distancing and follow state regulations and guidelines. And it’s important for us to get to Phase Three by July for us to be able to put on the fair,” he said.

The third phase, according to the state of Delaware recovery plan, says that vulnerable individuals no longer have to shelter in place but should practice social distancing. Also, large venues and restaurants may operate under “limited physical distancing protocols.”

The first phase of the three-phase plan may only start after 14 days of declining symptoms and presumed positive cases; the ability to treat COVID-19 patients in hospitals without crisis care; and an extensive testing programs for health care workers.

The phases are based on federal guidelines from the White House.

“Some folks have offered up opinions that the fair is nothing without concerts,” Mr. Aguilar said.

“But please rest assured that the fair has been happening for over 100 years. There’s amazing entertainment. Livestock is super important. We have agriculture, We’re planning carnival rides albeit on a modified basis. We’re looking at all options. But there are things we are going to have to modify or omit.”

Helpful Coronavirus links

Delaware Division of Health Coronavirus Page
CDC: About the Coronavirus Disease 2019
CDC: What to do if You Are Sick
Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center
AP News Coronavirus Coverage
Reopening Delaware: Resources for Businesses
Delaware Phase 2 guidance

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