Event cancellations because of the COVID-19 pandemic have reached the Mason County Fairgrounds.
The pandemic has forced Michigan State University’s Extension Office to stop face-to-face gatherings for its 4-H program, which in turn has forced the cancellation of a few horse shows at the Mason County Fairgrounds, according to Marcia Hansen, the communications director for the Western Michigan Fair.
The fairgrounds’ horse show season usually runs from May through October featuring everything from 4-H youth shows to the Mason County Saddle Club shows to the Harbor Classic Quarter Horse Show — the largest horse show during the season — the Summer Sizzler Series all the way through to the Michigan Interscholastic Horsemanship Association Regional Equestrian Meet.
There is literally a horse show nearly every weekend at the fairgrounds.
“Our horse show season starts in May," said Marcia Hansen. “We have already had our first weekend cancellation. On Saturday, May 16 the Mason County 4-H show and on Sunday, May 17 the Mason County Saddle Club Horse Show have both chosen to cancel.”
Hansen noted that the MSU Extension has made a decision to not allow any face-to-face events or activities with its 4-H members, which include horse shows for not only May but also for June and July.
“There were also a couple little non-competitive events to encourage kids to come to the fairgrounds to learn more about the program, but also get some hands on opportunities on the care, feeding and handling of the horses,” she said of another event that had to be canceled.
As far as the rest of the horse shows on the schedule, including the Harbor Classic Quarter Horse Show — which brings thousands of people to the area — Hansen remains optimistic that the show will be conducted. The Harbor Classic runs from June 29 through July 5.
“We have been in contact with them,” Hansen said. “It looks like this year will be even bigger than last year where we had 400-plus stall reservations. They are anticipating if there are not any more bumps in the road at 450 to 500 reservations.”
Hansen said, at this point, she is just not sure what will happen with the rest of the schedule.
A lot depends on what the state addresses are gatherings.
“We are not like a sporting event, but yet we figure we will have about 1,000 people on the grounds every day for the duration of the Harbor Classic.”
Right now that show is still a go, according to Hansen.
“The Mason County Saddle Club and the sizzler events are still planning for June shows,” she said. “The only ones that we have had to cancel are the Mason County 4-H Youth Shows and the May Mason County Saddle Club Show.”
Hansen said, at this point, organizers keep their fingers crossed.
“We always thought weather was the big thing we had to keep track of,” she said. “Little did we know that this pandemic would be something that would of never enter into our minds, (and) 2020 is going to go down as an interesting year.”
Hansen said the horse shows have a huge impact not only on the local economy but are also the Western Michigan Fair Association.
“We couldn’t do it without these horse shows,” she said. “This is how we pay our bills and expand and build the grounds up. The fair does not do it by itself. We really count on the horse shows and other events.”
The Mason County Fairgrounds fills and interesting aspect for the community and it is a showcase, according to Hansen.