By Gail Ellis

Oklahoma State Fair and Tulsa State Fair are two of the state’s trademark events that signal the end of summer. After both were canceled due to COVID-19 last year, organizers are excited to be back in action this September.

Oklahoma State Fair, Sept. 16-26

The theme for this year’s fair is Back 2 Fun in 21, and attendance is expected to be on par with 2019, if not slightly higher than that year. Average annual attendance ranges from 850,000 to 950,000. No restrictive health guidelines are anticipated, but organizers said they, like many other companies and organizations that host events, are keeping a close eye on the latest activity in their community.

“We’re in very close contact with our health officials and our municipal officials to make sure we’re all on the same page doing what we need to do,” said Gina Burchfiel, vice president of Oklahoma State Fair Inc. “For right now, we’re in watch mode, because it changes so fast that we don’t want to announce changes tomorrow when the situation could be different in three weeks.”

At this point in the pandemic, the public is familiar with last-minute changes and cancellations, but state fair organizers are determined to host an event that is both fun and safe.

“We hope we have the opportunity to proceed as we are planning right at this moment, and that involves hosting a full fair in the way, shape and form that people are accustomed to,” Burchfiel said.

If necessary, the Oklahoma State Fair will follow the four anchors of COVID-19 protocols: masks, occupancy, social distancing and cleaning.

“There is no mask ordinance in place at this time, but we will react to whatever the conditions mandate, much the same way we did when an emergency mask mandate was issued by the City of Oklahoma City last year,” said Scott Munz, senior vice president of marketing and sales.

“Our 4-H youth are extremely excited to show off their talents at the county and state fairs this year,” said Jessica Nickels, Garfield County Extension educator. “Garfield County always has several youth facilitate working displays on topics from STEM to wildlife to community service. They also promote the 4-H program and encourage youth to join.”

Ticket prices and promotional days will remain the same as in 2019. New features this year will include a Kids Can Cook stage show and Great American Speedway Crazy Animal Races. Returning favorites are Disney On Ice, the Chickasaw Country Entertainment Stage, the largest portable Ferris wheel in North America, and 4-H and FFA competitive exhibits and contests. Tickets are on sale at okstatefair.com.

Tulsa State Fair, Sept. 30-Oct. 10

Although all midway and exhibit hall activities were canceled in 2020, the Tulsa State Fair did host its youth livestock shows, which were predominantly held outdoors or in large spaces to accommodate social distancing. This year, programming is expected to return to levels last seen in 2019.

“There are a small number of exceptions and changes, which were made to streamline operations and provide efficient and effective maintenance turnover schedules while minimizing financial risk,” said Amanda Blair, chief operating officer of Expo Square/Tulsa State Fair.

Registration and entry numbers also align with 2019, and Blair is optimistic for a successful comeback this fall.

“We’ve partnered with the Tulsa Health Department and local officials to make sure all operations are compliant with any mandates and regulations,” she said. “Our team is always focused on providing a safe, clean and fun event, and that will be no different in 2021.”

The fair will introduce new entertainment on the main grounds, including the Jet Pack Flying Circus, Insypral Circus, Paul Bunyan Lumberjack Show and a returning crowd favorite: Perondi’s Stunt Dog Show. Other performances will feature a full national touring lineup on the Oklahoma Stage and local entertainment throughout the grounds.

More than 5,000 4-H and FFA youth participate in activities and contests for a total of about 15,000 entries. The Tulsa State Fair is home to 1,000 vendors and 65 rides. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit tulsastatefair.com.

Ellis is a communications specialist for Oklahoma State University’s Agricultural Communications Services.

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