Field Days

Kids showing off their animals is one of the key events at Franklin County County Field Days, which has been canceled for this year.

HIGHGATE – Organizers have opted to cancel this year’s Franklin County Field Days, citing public health and safety concerns related to the ongoing spread of COVID-19.

The festival’s organizers announced the cancellation in a social media post Tuesday, thanking the public for their “patience as we navigate this uncharted territory” before announcing that “it is with a heavy heart that we announce we will be canceling our 2020 Franklin County Field Days fair.”

“Every year, we all look forward to showcasing the agriculture and hardworking people who make Franklin County a great place to live, work, and play,” the message said. “However, after careful thought and consideration, we feel it is critical to protect the health and safety of our beloved community.”

Franklin County Field Days, the annual days-long festival drawing tens of thousands to the property ringing the Franklin County State Airport in Highgate every summer, is far from being the only event cancelled amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last Friday, Gov. Phil Scott announced his emergency declaration over the spread of COVID-19 had been amended to include the cancellation of all large outdoor festivals and field days due to the difficulty of maintaining social distancing guidelines in larger gatherings.

“Even with the steps we’ve taken, the reality is that we’re still far from being back to normal,” Scott told reporters Friday. “While I’ve tried to avoid getting too far ahead of our data, I understand… the reality that we’re just not ready for large, unstructured events with hundreds – if not thousands – of people coming into one area without control and the ability to physically separate.”

Even before Scott’s announcement Friday, larger events coloring summers in Northwest Vermont had opted to close over public health concerns related to COVID-19, with the Vermont Dairy Festival announcing the June event’s cancellation in March over fears their event could help spread the disease.

The cancellation of the Vermont Dairy Festival was later followed by the announced postponement of the Great Race and Bay Day events in St. Albans Town and the cancellation of the Celebrate Lake Carmi events that draw people to the shores of Lake Carmi in Franklin every July.

Standing gubernatorial orders have limited public gatherings to no more than 10 people at a given time, though Scott has hinted those limitations could be lifted to allow for gatherings of up to 25 people by the start of June.

COVID-19 is an easily transmitted respiratory disease that, while mild for most, can result in serious and potentially life-threatening illness for some of those infected.

Since it was first identified in Vermont in March, 971 people have tested positive for the virus in Vermont and 54 have died due to complications of the disease, according to Vermont’s health department.

Other major outdoor events, including the Champlain Valley Fair, have announced their cancellations this year in the wake of Scott’s amended order.

In their post Tuesday, organizers for the Franklin County Field Days thanked the businesses, farmers and crafters supporting the fair every year and promised to return in 2021.

“We extend our continued support and gratitude to our community of business owners, farmers, sugar makers, crafters, manufacturers, vendors and many more,” their message read. “We look forward to seeing you all next year!”

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