NORTHAMPTON, Mass. (WWLP) – A new $4 million state program will help cover pandemic-related financial losses at several county fairs throughout the state.

The funding is a portion of the state’s allotted American Rescue Plan money. County fairs, along the New England’s Great State Fair, were forced to remain closed during the first year of the pandemic. As a result, they lost critical operating revenue.

“The financial losses that many of our agricultural fairs accrued during the COVID-19 pandemic were significant and have threatened their long-term viability,” said Sunderland State Representative Natalie Blais. “Steeped in history, these fairs are a tremendous asset to the Commonwealth, not only acting as an economic engine but also as a unique place for visitors to learn about the importance of our local food systems.” 

“I thank the Legislature for recognizing the importance of agricultural fairs throughout the Commonwealth. These fairs, both large and small, serve to educate the public as to the importance of local farms and where our food and fiber come from. This funding will help offset the calamitous economic loss our fairs suffered during the COVID pandemic,” said Frank Di Luna, President, Massachusetts Agricultural Fairs Association.

Some 40 county fairs and agricultural venues in the state will benefit from the $4 million. Small fairs across the state reported losses in the tens of thousands of dollars and larger fairs estimated millions in losses. Several Franklin and Hampshire County fair operators spoke about the news of this funding.

“The Hillside Agricultural Society (operating as the Cummington Fair since 1869), is excited by the news that the ARPA Bill just passed by the MA Legislature contains COVID-19 Relief money for the Massachusetts Agricultural Fair Industry. This will be very beneficial for Fairs that couldn’t run in 2020 and endured extra expenses in putting their 2021 Fairs together,” said Albert Judd, President, Cummington Fair. “We are very appreciative of Representative Natalie Blais and other State leaders for their efforts to advocate for the Agricultural Fairs. These funds will ensure that future years of Agricultural Education will be able to happen at your local Fairs.”

“This funding from the Legislature will have an immediate and dramatic impact at the Franklin County Fairgrounds. These funds are critical to the long-term viability and preservation of our facility for future generations to appreciate and enjoy,” said Michael Nelson, President, Franklin County Fair. “We are so incredibly grateful to receive this pandemic relief funding and commend Rep. Blais for her tireless support of the agricultural and tourism industries in Franklin County.”

“As America’s oldest on-going agricultural Fair, the Three County Fair in Northampton is very encouraged by the news about the MA Legislature passing the ARPA bill that includes COVID-19 relief to Massachusetts agricultural fairs,” said James Przypek, General Manager, Three County Fair. “Our local legislators, including Senator Joanne Comerford and Representative Lindsay Sabadosa, spoke up for our fair to be recognized as one that suffered tremendous hardship due to the business shutdowns and restrictions.  We are extremely appreciative of their advocacy and the attentive work championed by Representative Natalie Blais, who has been an outspoken leader for the agricultural fair industry, who have largely slipped through the cracks of eligibility for other federal and state COVID relief sources.”