OKEECHOBEE — The 17th annual Okeechobee County Fair was a great fair, Linda Syfrett told the Okeechobee County Board of County Commissioners at their June 10 meeting.
“This year our theme was ‘Buckets of Fun in 2021.’ That was our goal and I think we achieved that. We have a great fair,” she said.
The all volunteer fair board worked very hard to have a successful fair, she added. They worked with Agri-Civic Center Facilities Director Matt Dorriety to come up with a plan to provide a safe event despite the COVID-19 pandemic. They added hand sanitizer stations and hand washing stations. At the gate, they offered masks to anyone who wanted one. The midway rides were periodically sanitized throughout the fair.
“Matt Dorriety and his staff have provided over the years – and especially this year – wonderful support, above and beyond,” she added.
She said after Dorriety found some old picnic tables that were in disrepair, the fair committee secretary/treasurer and her family tore off the old table tops and seats and replaced the wood and fastener bolts, adding 12 refurbished picnic tables for use year round at the Agri-Civic Center.
This year, the fair had a new midway provider, Modern Midways. Syfrett said three members of the fair committee traveled to Georgia to see their midway before signing the contract.
“The midway was excellent,” said Commission Chair Terry Burroughs. “That was the highlight of making sure you made a good fair.”
Syfrett said the Youth Livestock Show is held in conjunction with the fair. The fair committee gives all of the Livestock Show participants and their parents wrist bands so they can come to the fair without charge.
The fair also schedules, hires and pays for the bathroom attendants who keep the arena facilities clean and stocked. They also pay people to keep up the grounds, and provide a deputy from the Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office to patrol the fairgrounds, 24 hours a day. They patrol livestock show area in the evening so they have security there, she explained.
Syfrett said the fair was impacted by the pandemic with a decrease in volunteers and the loss of the jail trustys. Previous years, the sheriff’s office brought a work crew from the jail to help with the fair setup and cleanup. That could not happen this year.
She said many senior citizens who volunteer to help at the fair or enter competitive events at the fair did not participate this year. She said she heard other county fairs as well as the state fair had the same problem.
“I can’t blame them,” she said. “We were in the middle of a pandemic.” When the fair was held in March, many people were still waiting for a COVID-19 vaccination appointment.
“Next year, when we’re all fully vaccinated, I feel that problem will be resolved,” said Syfrett.
The committee is working on next year’s fair, set for March 15-20, 2022.