Few masks at Indiana State Fair, but even people with higher COVID risks can’t stay away

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — After a one-year hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Indiana State Fair is back.

While many things are the same as in fairs before the pandemic hit, there are a few new things, especially in light of the ongoing coronavirus concerns. One of those new things are the hand-sanitizing stations all over and masks for people.

Selena Rouse, who was with her friend Tracey Williams, said, “I’ve been every year since I was 10 years old so I don’t want to miss it this year.”

Rouse didn’t want to miss the fun even though she has medical conditions that prevent her from getting the coronavirus vaccine. “I feel safe. I try to stay not where it’s as crowded.”

But, she and Williams are in the extreme minority. It seemed like 99%, if not more, of people outdoors did not have a mask on Friday afternoon.

“Nobody’s wearing masks pretty much, and I really wish they would,” Rouse said.

Ashley Hubbard and her family also couldn’t stay away from the fair either. “This is an annual tradition for our family. It has been for years.”

She’s vaccinated, but both her and her son are at increased risk for COVID complications as well. “We have been using hand sanitizer at every ride, station everywhere we’ve been,” Hubbard said and then laughed. “I’m glad there’s not a whole lot of other people, that it’s not extremely crowded.”

State fair officials said guest safety is their utmost priority so they’re doing what they can. Along with over 500 sanitizing stations, they’re recommending everyone wear a mask while indoors and that people who are not vaccinated follow U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.

Fair officials also tried to make contactless transactions a priority, even making the tractor shuttles around the fair free this year. “We’re a 250-acre campus, a lot of elbow room so we can definitely spread out,” said Sharon Smith, the fair’s communications director.

For Hubbard and other fairgoers who are at extra risk, every bit of safety is appreciated. They don’t want to miss out on the annual custom two years in a row.

“It makes it seem like tradition for sure,” Hubbard said. “Last year was rough.”

While Rouse planned to leave the State Fairgrounds as soon as it got more crowded, she’s also planning to come back with her family again on another day, even if the masks like hers are few and far between.

“It makes me uncomfortable, but all I can do is take care of myself and try to social distance myself,” Rouse said.

The fair is open Wednesday through Sundays through Aug. 22.


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