For the second straight year, there won’t be long lines of people stretched in front of thrilling rides, fun-filled games, or food booths with tasty treats.
For the second straight year, there won’t be a rodeo, an academic fun bowl, a talent show, a spelling bee, or beauty pageants.
For the second straight year, the Livingston Parish Fairgrounds will sit mostly empty in October, the month of the year when it is traditionally packed with thousands of visitors from across the state.
For the second straight year, the Livingston Parish Fair is being cancelled, again because of unprecedented circumstances.
Lynn Sibley, president of the Livingston Parish Fair Association, confirmed the “gut-wrenching” news in a phone call with The News Tuesday, saying the impacts from Hurricane Ida made it impossible for organizers to proceed as planned.
“It’s pretty gut-wrenching for us, but some things are out of our control,” Sibley said. “I can’t put the public at risk. For safety issues, we just can’t do it.”
Ida’s strong winds brought “significant damage” to the fairgrounds located off Florida Boulevard in the Town of Livingston. According to the National Weather Service, the eye of the storm moved directly through the area overnight Aug. 29, with winds still at hurricane strength.
Like the rest of the area, the Livingston Parish Fairgrounds were not spared.
Sibley said “every building” on the fairgrounds was affected during the storm, mostly with roof damage, and that repairs would not be complete in time for the fair’s start in early October.
As of Tuesday afternoon, the fairgrounds still didn’t have power, Sibley said. The grounds themselves have also been wrecked after being used as a staging area for utility trucks in the storm’s aftermath.
“We’re making progress on the buildings, but it’s just slow,” Sibley said. “And I can’t ask a roofer to fix our buildings when there are people whose homes don’t have a roof.”
Traditionally held every year in October, the Livingston Parish Fair was cancelled last year amid the coronavirus pandemic. It marked the fourth time the fair was cancelled in its history, which dates back to 1937. The first fair was held at Doyle Elementary before moving to the current facility in the early 1940s.
Before last year, the fair was cancelled in the years following the Great Flood of 2016 and Hurricane Katrina as well as one year during World War II. The Livingston train derailment in 1982 forced postponement from its traditional October run to November.
But this year’s cancellation marks the first time that the fair will have been nixed in back-to-back years in its 84-year history, a heartbreaking set of circumstances for Sibley, who has been involved with the fair since her childhood.
“COVID was a big obstacle for us,” she said, “and just as we were working out the kinks on that, Ida came. it just hasn’t been good. It’s like we have a target on our backs.”
This year’s fair was originally scheduled for Oct. 5-10. A parade was set for Saturday, Oct. 2, followed by the baby beauty pageants on Sunday, Oct. 3.
In addition to midway rides, games, and food, the fair features various exhibits, an academic fun bowl, a talent show, a spelling bee hosted by The Livingston Parish News, a day for children with special needs, pageants, and rodeo action, among other activities.
Sibley said the Livingston Parish Fair Association’s attention is now turned toward making next year’s fair “better than ever.”
“We’re going to be back better than ever next year,” Sibley said. “We hope.”