New England’s agricultural fairs are back after a year hiatus

Topsfield and Deerfield had a taste of fried dough and normalcy early this month with the return of their long-awaited annual agricultural fairs. 

However, after the global pandemic forced the tradition to a halt this time last year, many feel that there needs to be precautions.

“It’s definitely a big concern. We’ve always had dozens and dozens of handwashing stations and hand sanitizing stations, but those numbers even increased this year.” According to David Thomson, head of public relations for the Topsfield Fair. 

The town of Topsfield has even gone as far as to institute a mask mandate for inside buildings. Deerfield, on the other hand, was ready to throw caution to the wind. 

“If people wanted to go in a building, it was up to them if they wanted to wear a mask or not. It’s such an open-air event […] pedestrian traffic goes one direction, they weren’t butting into people face first.” said Vice President of the Deerfield Fair, Richard Pitman.

Although according to some fairgoers, the pedestrian traffic Pitman refers to may be misleading. 

“Crowd movement was unpredictable and felt unorganized, it was hard to tell where one line started and the other ended,” said fairgoer and NECC student Ava Tavares.

Covid protocols aren’t the only hindrance caused by the pandemic this year. 

Thomson went on to say that “we lost some vendors. A few of them have gone out of business because of the pandemic, and others just weren’t able to get staffing in order to run their booth.”

Lost costs were a heavy hit for fairs last year, and with supply chain shortages, the typical high prices associated with fairs like these were even higher this year. 

“We’ve been fortunate that we got everything we need because we planned ahead but the prices have gone up, in some cases dramatically.” said Thomson. 

 “We didn’t know what to expect so we just went full speed ahead, it cost us a lot of money to not open last year because we still have to pay taxes, insurance, labor, maintenance. So we had a big amount to recoup here.” said Pitman 

One thing the pandemic hasn’t affected is turnout. More than 114,000 people attended the Deerfield Fair, and the Topsfield Fair saw a turnout of approximately 500,000.