State Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler made the announcement Wednesday morning during a press conference to local media. The cancellation marks the first time since World War II that the fair will not take place.
"We have hoped, we have prayed and we have thought and thought and thought but at the end of the day, it's the only logical decision that we could make," Troxler said.
The 2020 State Fair was scheduled to happen Oct. 15-25 at the North Carolina State Fairgrounds in Raleigh. Troxler said the junior livestock shows and horse shows usually part of the fair will happen.
"I think you can expect to see additional drive-thru fair food events which have been really popular this summer," Troxler said.
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"I can think of a thousand places I'd rather be today than here delivering this news," Troxler said. "The State Fair is a tradition we all look forward to each year. It's a vital economic engine for local non-profits, community groups, small businesses and individuals. It's a time for family and friends to come together to celebrate everything that makes North Carolina such a great place to live. We waited as long as we could, hoping the numbers would take a turn and we'd be able to continue with our planning, but each day brought more challenges than solutions."
Troxler said their research showed that 65 percent of people who previously attended the state fair would be hesitant to attend during a pandemic.
While the number one priority in the decision to cancel the fair was safety, Troxler said the finance of the fair played a major role too. He described the decision to cancel the fair as a business decision.
"To say the year 2020 has been a disappointment is a clear understatement."
The fair is the biggest annual event in the state. Over just the past ten years, nearly 18 million people have attended the North Carolina State Fair. In five of those years, the event brought more than a million people to the fairgrounds
Large crowds like that are the sort of thing health experts say allows the virus to spread.
WATCH: NC State Fair foodies line up in cars to grab their favorite treats
Major fairs nationwide have also been canceled because of COVID-19, including the Texas state fair in Dallas, which was scheduled to start just three weeks before North Carolina's. Wednesday afternoon, officials canceled the Central North Carolina fair, which was scheduled for mid-September in Greensboro, N.C. Organizers said the event would return in 2021.