Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, both of the city of Bryan pools, at Moore and East End parks, will be closed this season.
“After weeks of deliberation, we feel it is in the best interest of the Bryan community not to open for the 2020 summer season due to the current COVID-19 situation. I assure you that this was not an easy decision,” Bryan Parks and Recreation Director Ben Dominique said in a press release Thursday.
Dominique said it was a very difficult decision, but one made after thoroughly reviewing the official three-page guidelines issued by the state for local and public pools and aquatic centers, and after extensive consultation with the county and state health departments.
While the DeWine administration has said pools may reopen for the season May 26, Dominique and Mayor Carrie Schlade said the decision to close Bryan’s pools for 2020 was made reluctantly, but with the health and safety of pool staff and patrons as the top priority.
Schlade and Dominique said city officials spent “an enormous amount of time” looking through all the guidelines established by the state regarding reopening aquatic facilities, and talking with staff, various health professionals and parks and recreation professionals throughout Ohio prior to making their decision.
“At the end of the day we feel it is in the best interest of our staff, community and patrons to keep the pools closed,” Dominique said.
The state, as part of its Responsible Restart Ohio plan, established three pages of mandatory guidelines for local and public pools and aquatic centers. Some of those guidelines include: requiring pool operators to reduce capacity to ensure guests can stay six feet apart from other people; mandating social distancing and enforcing groups of only less than 10 people; cleaning and disinfecting often and recommending guests wear face coverings as they enter and leave pool areas and aquatic centers (but not while they’re swimming).
Schlade called the guidelines “cumbersome,” and said of the numerous other communities the city spoke to, virtually all have said they will stay closed this year, including the village of Montpelier
“The capacity of our pools would have changed (and) the increased demand on sanitization of all surfaces located at our pool facilities would be extremely cumbersome to our staff,” Dominique noted in his press release, adding that the social distancing rules in the water and on deck would have greatly impacted the ability to move in and around the facility, and would have required additional monitoring.
“Managing our pools within these guidelines that have been established was still a high risk and not in the best interest of our community and staff,” he said.
“This decision to close was nothing we took lightly. It’s not a decision we wanted to take at all. But in the end it’s the decision we felt like we had to take for the health and safety of our staff and our residents,” Schlade said.
There may be a Williams County Fair in September. But there will be no Ohio State Fair this year.
The Ohio Expositions Commission announced Thursday that it has canceled the 2020 Ohio State Fair, originally scheduled for July 29 to Aug. 9, in Columbus.
The commission cited concerns for public health, as well as the financial feasibility of hosting a fair that would adhere to social distancing protocols and its impact on the long-term viability of the Ohio State Fair.
“After careful thought and deliberation, we have decided to cancel the Ohio State Fair. Knowing how easily the virus spreads in large groups, we believe it is the safest path forward for the health and safety of all Ohioans.” said Andy Doehrel, chair of the Ohio Expositions Commission. “The financial ramifications of hosting a reduced-capacity fair would be too great, and we need to protect the Ohio State Fair for future generations.”
Matt Kennedy, president of the Williams County Agricultural Society (fair board) said Thursday no decision has yet been made in regards to the county fair, which is scheduled for Sept. 12-19.
“We’re still on right now. Our big concern is if the state or the county health departments are going to come down with some guidelines (for social distancing or other protocols) that would make it (problematic), or if they’re flat-out going to tell us no,” said Kennedy.
Kennedy said not staging the fair would be a major hit to the non-profit fair board’s bottom line, which has already suffered from reduced revenues from building rentals.
He did note the fair board has been considering the financial viability of staging a junior fair only — with very few vendors and without amusement rides, featured musical acts and other events — to give 4-H and other youth the opportunity to at least show their animals and experience some elements of the fair. However, that would still cost the fair board an estimated $100,000 — for utilities, service contracts, liability insurance, judges and premiums/prizes — with virtually no revenue generation, Kennedy said.
The fair board was scheduled for its monthly meeting via conference call Thursday evening.
“We’re still planning for the fair,” Kennedy said Thursday morning.
Virgil Strickler, general manager of the Ohio Expo Center & State Fair, said the safety of the thousands of people involved in the Ohio State Fair each year is the priority.
“While this is a difficult decision, we feel it is necessary to protect the fairgoers, exhibitors, volunteers, vendors, partners, performers, concessionaires, youth leaders, employees and sponsors,” Strickler said. “I look forward to seeing my fellow Ohioans at the 2021 Ohio State Fair, when it is safer for us to enjoy our favorite traditions together.”
In 2019, 934,925 people attended the Ohio State Fair during its 12-day run. These attendees came from each of Ohio’s 88 counties, all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Canada and Mexico.
The Williams County Fair has drawn around 60,000 in attendance for the past several years.
The Ohio Expositions Commission said it is focused on developing a strategy to responsibly reopen its year-round facilities when appropriate, and to welcome guests back for the 2021 Ohio State Fair, scheduled for July 28 through Aug. 8.
LEGISLATORS WEIGH IN
Friday, State Sen. Rob McColley and State Rep. Jim Hoops weighed in on the topic of COVID-19 and fairs and large gatherings at a legislative roundtable with Williams County leaders hosted by the Williams County Economic Development Council.
Both legislators indicated last week’s cancellation of the Paulding County Fair and the cancellation of the Ohio State Fair announced Thursday due to COVID-19 concerns has led to questions across the state.
“We’ll see if the state fair (cancellation) has a domino effect with the counties,” Hoops said. “A lot of fairs have said, ‘Let’s just do the junior fair.’ But unfortunately, by just doing that, we’ve been told a lot of the county fairs will go broke (due to the cost of junior fair and lost revenue from a potentially canceled larger fair event).”
Hoops said two legislative committees, one at the House level and one at the governor’s office level, are currently examining the fair issue specifically.
Both legislators expressed optimism about summer activities, especially in light of recent rulings such as the state’s permission for banquet and catering halls to allow up to 300 socially distanced occupants beginning June 1.
“I do think there’s movement in the right direction,” said McColley. “I don’t know what the next stage will be. I think we’ll see a gradual incline up to that, moving up to 25 or 100. That’s completely speculation my part.”
During the roundtable, a local official inquired as to whether geography and virus proliferation, or lack thereof in a given area, might be taken into account moving forward.
In Williams County, fewer than 35 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed and fewer than 50 cases are suspected, with four hospitalizations and one death, according to the Williams County Health Department.
That contrasts significantly with numbers in urban centers.
“The state is different in all the areas. It’s been discussed, but there really isn’t anything in legislative language that would deal specifically with that purpose,” said Hoops.
McColley said on more than one occasion he has asked the governor to consider having less-affected communities, like Williams and Henry counties, open up sooner than those that have more COVID-19 cases.
“He’s been unwilling to do it,” said McColley. “He’d rather have a statewide standard that’s the same in Cleveland as it is in Bryan, Ohio.”
Pilots from the Ohio Air National Guard’s 180th Fighter Wing flew two F-16s over the Bryan and Montpelier hospitals on May 14 to salute health care workers on the front lines against COVID-19. And, whether you saw it or not, the flyover gave a nod to a local man, Michael Worthington.
Worthington, of Bryan, built the 180th Fighter Wing’s Wall of Honor in 2019 to recognize their best and brightest airmen. It’s a massive 12- by eight-foot panel listing all the wing’s top performers, year by year.
“He’s the man,” said Master Sgt. Beth Hollicker, Public Affairs Officer for the 180th. “He worked with our chief’s council and got it right where it needs to be, inspiring new recruits as they walk in.”
Chief Master Sgt. Jeffery Zimmerman led the council that commissioned the plaque.
“We recognize all of our airmen in one form or another, but we wanted to do something special for the best individuals from our enlisted ranks and NCO (non-commissioned officer) Corps,” Zimmerman said.
The 180th is a reserve unit with 1,200 personnel ready to deploy F-16s whenever and wherever the nation needs them while also maintaining fighters for homeland defense.
“We train every day and have planes locked and loaded on the flight line 24/7,” Zimmerman said. “We also do presidential escorts and ceremonial flyovers when called upon.”
Worthington specializes in laser engraving and has one of the largest flatbed lasers in the area but said the project was a team effort. He did the design and engraving at his shop in Bryan. Pete Grieser, of Heartwood Cabinetry in Archbold, did the sizing, backside hardware routing, top coating and trim. They worked on designs for the 180th throughout 2018 and completed the project in January 2019.
“I had a chance to take a private tour of the base and am completely amazed at what we have in our own backyard,” Worthington said. “I don’t think there are many civilians who are aware of the extent of services and protection they are offering.”
The 180th Fighter Wing has served northwest Ohio and the nation since before World War I, when they fielded biplanes.
One of their own was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor in World War II. Addison Baker, of Akron, served with the unit as a pilot from 1932 until he was called to duty with the 328 Bomb Squadron and deployed to Europe in 1942.
On Aug. 1, 1943, Baker was a lieutenant colonel with the 93rd Bomb Group in Operation Tidal Wave, a low-level bombing over Nazi German oil fields in Ploieşti, Romania.
When the group’s navigator crashed, Baker took the lead in a B-24 Liberator named Hell’s Wench and completed the run, even though his plane was seriously damaged and in flames from anti-aircraft guns. His bomber crashed while taking evasive maneuvers after the drop, killing all nine on board. Baker’s remains were never recovered but he has a memorial in the Florence American Cemetery in Florence, Italy.
Bryan: A previously filmed ceremony will be broadcast on BMU-TV Channel 4, as well as on YouTube at https://youtu.be/VnbTtiFMwYQ and Facebook at https://business.facebook.com/watch/?v=3251033018241760 and FM 96.1 QCT radio, all at 9 a.m. It will also be rebroadcast multiple times throughout the day on BMU-TV Channel 4. The annual parade is canceled.
Montpelier: Taps and the annual wreath-laying ceremony will be livestreamed, starting 10:55 a.m. Monday, on the following Facebook pages: Dane Michael Veterans Center, Montpelier Post 109 American Legion and Williams County VFW Post 944. The annual parade is canceled.
Edgerton: A short ceremony will take place at Maple Grove Cemetery at 10 a.m. Monday. Attendees are reminded to practice social distancing. The annual parade is canceled.
Edon: A short ceremony including wreath-laying and a 21-gun salute will take place at 11 a.m. Monday at the cemetery. Residents may attend but are asked to remain in their vehicles. The annual parade is canceled.
Pioneer: No plans were reported.
Pulaski: No plans were reported.
Stryker: The American Legion will meet at the cemetery for a short ceremony for Legion members only.
West Unity: No plans were reported.
Williams Center: Festivities are canceled.
Sherwood/Ney: VFW and American Legion members will hold services at 9 a.m. at Moats Cemetery at 9 a.m., at St. Isidore Cemetery at 10 a.m., at Ney Cemetery at 11 a.m., and at Sherwood Cemetery at 12:15 p.m., with comments from Defiance County Commissioner Ryan Mack, who is a veteran. The annual parade and potluck are canceled.