Those attending the country concert at the 2019 Crawford County Fair won't be able to buy beer at the show.

At their meeting Wednesday, Crawford County commissioners voted unanimously against changing county policy to allow the sale of beer at the Aug. 21 concert.

Commissioners said they couldn’t support having beer sold — even on a limited basis as proposed by the county Fair Board.

Last week, the Fair Board formally asked commissioners to amend the county's fairgrounds alcohol policy to permit limited craft beer sales the night of the country concert.

With alcohol not permitted on the county-owned fairgrounds, commissioners would have had to amend or revise the policy to permit even the limited beer sales the Fair Board proposed.

Under the Fair Board's proposal, sales and consumption of craft beer would have been limited to a confined area on the racetrack near the stage. The Fair Board would have limited the total number of beers purchased by a person to two or three with sales restricted to one hour before the concert through the end of the concert. Whichever vendor the Fair Board selected also would have had to assume all liability.

Prior to the vote, Commissioners John Amato, Francis Weiderspahn Jr. and Chris Soff all said they were against beer sales at the fairgrounds during the fair.

"It's not the way we want to be known or brand ourselves," Amato said.

Weiderspahn, who chairs the board of commissioners, said he had received emails and phone calls as well as comments and suggestions via social media with the remarks evenly split between pro and con on beer sales.

"It did bring up a lot of questions," Weiderspahn said of what he received from residents. "I think a lot of them are unanswered at this time."

Soff said he had supported pursuing the idea of beer sales within strict guidelines, but now he couldn't support it since he wasn't convinced it would enhance the fair. 

"If this was a stand-alone concert — not during fair time — and the idea of a beer garden was proposed, it might be a little bit different situation," he said.

Soff noted the county fair gives out awards for homemade beer and homemade wine but because of the county's alcohol policy the entries are tasted and judged offsite and only empty bottles displayed to represent the winners.

"It just seems kind of strange that we would continue to do that when we don't allow alcohol there, yet have beer sales at a concert," Soff said.

Cleanup crews also have found empty beer bottles and cans on the fairgrounds after some of the previous concerts as well as some truck and tractor pulls, he said. 

"We've had discussions with EMS (emergency medical services), law enforcement and security — they already deal with certain issues related to alcohol at the fairgrounds," Soff said. "I'm not sure we'd want to add to their burdens."

Soff offered that since the commissioners support the county's craft beer industry, perhaps a separate event for them at a different time could be organized.

Following the vote, Bill Winters, Crawford County Fair Board president, said the Fair Board understands the commissioners' position. Winters and several other Fair Board members are in Hershey attending the Pennsylvania State Association of County Fairs convention.

"It was an idea that the board had to maybe increase attendance at the fair," Winters told the Tribune. "We are grateful to the commissioners for even considering it, but they have the final decision."

Keith Gushard can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at kgushard@meadvilletribune.com.

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