Free Fair Still on Schedule Despite State Fair Cancellation

by Elizabeth Pitts-Hibbard

Rabbit Shows Banned for 90 Days

Stephens County Board of Commissioners chairman Russell Morgan said on Monday that the Stephens County Free Fair is still scheduled for August of this year, even though the Oklahoma State Fair has been canceled.

“We have had a couple of events canceled, mainly family reunions and stuff like that,” Morgan said. “Concerning our fair, we’re still good to go as far as I’m concerned unless something comes down from higher up.”

He said that Brenda Gandy-Jones of the OSU County Extension office was seeking volunteers for the Free Fair operations. “Some of the more immune-compromised aren’t wanting to volunteer, and I understand that,” Morgan said.

“As of last week all of our commercial booths are nearly full,” Morgan added. “And the carnival is still wanting to come.”

The Oklahoma State Fair cited COVID-19 public health concerns when announcing the cancellation of this year’s fair.

“The safety and well-being of the Oklahoma State Fair’s visitors, participants, and community is the highest priority in producing [the fair] each year,” the announcement stated. “After extensive communications with our many partners including other state fairs, national touring acts, state and local officials, as well as public health agencies, it became clear to the…Board of Directors that cancellation was the prudent choice for 2020.”

The announcement came less than a week after Feld Entertainment, the producer of “Disney on Ice,” said that the popular show would be canceled at the 2020 Oklahoma State Fair, citing “increasing spread of the virus, expanding restrictions on domestic and international travel, and our adherence to national, state, and local governments prohibiting large group gatherings.”

The Tulsa State Fair organization released a statement that plans are still in place for the event, although organizers “will continue to monitor” the situation. The fair also announced that it would only host Junior livestock shows at the event.

The Oklahoma Department of Agriculture also announced last week that all rabbit shows in the state are banned for at least 90 days in order to assess the risk of Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease (RHD) in the region.

Oklahoma State Veterinarian Dr. Rod Hall said that “It is essential to stop commingling of rabbits until we have a better understanding of the disease prevalence and better tools to prevent disease transmission.

“I encourage all owners and breeders of pet, show, and meat production rabbits to immediately institute strict biosecurity to protect your rabbits.”

According to the Department of Agriculture, RHD is a lethal virus that is highly contagious. The department emphasized that it is not known to affect humans or livestock.

“Often the only clinical sign is sudden death,” the Department news release states. “In less acute cases, clinical signs may include the following: dullness/apathy, not eating, ocular and/or nasal hemorrhage and congestion of the conjunctiva. Some may develop neurological signs such as incoordination, excitement or seizure like episodes. Infections in younger rabbits can be less severe and deaths are not as likely.”

Sick or dead rabbits should be reported to the Department of Wildlife Conservation if wild or the State Veterinarian’s office, if domestic.