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The Chester Fair, which was canceled in 2020 due to COVID, will return this year for the last weekend in August. Image courtesy of the Chester Historical Society )
The Chester Fair is a tradition that goes back to 1877. Image courtesy of the Chester Historical Society )
Prior to 2020, the Chester Fair had only been canceled four times, once in 1905 and for three years during World War II. Image courtesy of the Chester Historical Society )
Image courtesy of the Chester Historical Society )
Although the Chester Fair may operate differently this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, work is underway to plan the annual event’s return in 2021, with as many of the customary activities as possible, including one of the biggest attractions, the pig race.
“We are very excited,” said Chester Selectman Charlene Janecek, who is also treasurer and a director of the Chester Agricultural and Mechanical Society.
“It may not look like fairs of the past,” she added. “It’s a work in progress at this point.”
As with many events in the past year, the fair, one of the largest annual attractions in the area, was canceled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Janecek said that state safety guidelines for COVID-19 precluded holding the fair in 2020.
“We talked about it at length, but in the interest of safety with COVID, we almost didn’t have a choice,” said Janecek. “With the guidelines that the state sent out, there was no way that we could have a fair.”
The Chester Fair–A Tradition
Prior to 2020, the Chester Fair had only been canceled four times, once in 1905 and for three years during World War II.
Established in 1877, it is a time-honored tradition in Chester.
“Years ago, it was a one-day event with a parade at the Meeting House, usually later in the fall,” said Diane Lindsay, curator at the Chester Historical Society.
Lindsay’s memories of the fair as a child in the 1940s and ‘50s include gathering vegetables with her Uncle Warren for the Grange exhibit and, later as an adult, volunteering with numerous town organizations.
“So many people and organizations in town participate now, or have in the past,” said Lindsay, adding, “Who can go to the fair without visiting the Chester Hose Company trailer?
“I think years ago, it was less carnival, and more farmers and people showing off their skills and produce, although to me, that’s still the best part of it,” she continued.
The Chester Fair in 2021
Circumstances of the COVID-19 virus have changed in 2021, with Governor Ned Lamont recently announcing that most COVID-19 restrictions will be lifted on Wednesday, May 19, paving the way for events like the Chester Fair to proceed.
This change is a reflection of decreasing state-wide infection rates as well as Connecticut’s continued high rate of inoculating residents against the virus.
Despite these trends, Janecek said of this year’s attendance, “It’s an unknown. Are people going to come out?”
The last traditional fair, with amusement rides, food like fried dough and cotton candy, animal judging, pie baking contests and numerous vendors, brought about 10,000 people to town over the course of the three-day event.
Although organizers are confident in putting together a safe, well-organized event, it may not include all of the typical vendors or activities as in years past, said Janecek.
One of the changes that attendees will see this year is one-way traffic in the on-site buildings. All contest entries will also need to be made in advance, by mail or email.
Capacity limits will not be a concern, as “with a fair you’ve got many people coming and going,” said Janecek,
Updates and details on the schedule of events will be made in the coming weeks and will be available at www.chesterfair.org.
The Chester Fair will take place on Friday, Aug. 27 from 6 to 11 p.m.; Saturday, Aug. 28 from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m.; and Sunday, Aug. 29 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. The Chester Fairgrounds is on Kirtland Terrace, off Middlesex Avenue, or Route 154.
If interested in volunteering, contact event organizers at email@example.com.
Shown with the online version of this story are a few historical photos of the Chester Fair, including a float from 1919 and three postcards issued by the Chester Fair in 1911.