Maricopa County Fair returns after two-year pandemic hiatus

Fairgoers purchase food from vendors at the Maricopa County Fair on Thursday in Phoenix. The fair reopened this week after two years of COVID-19 closures. (Photo by Monserrat Apud/Cronkite News)

Isabelle Ramirez, center, leads her goat, Shira, after placing sixth in a Maricopa County Fair showmanship competition. (Photo by Monserrat Apud/Cronkite News)

Prize goats are displayed in a showmanship competition at the Maricopa County Fair. Many of the competitors, who are ages 8 to 19, are in 4-H or FFA. (Photo by Monserrat Apud/Cronkite News)

Madison Carter, who started showing animals during the two years the Maricopa County Fair was closed, grooms her goat for a showmanship competition. (Photo by Monserrat Apud/Cronkite News)

Amie Blackwell helps her children get ready for a showmanship competition at the Maricopa County Fair. (Photo by Monserrat Apud/Cronkite News)

Logan Le removes one of his his chickens from its cage at the Maricopa County Fair. (Photo by Monserrat Apud/Cronkite News)

Amber Bridges, owner of Dragonfly Designz and a vendor at the Maricopa County Fair, cuts an apple for an apple, chocolate and caramel plate. (Photo by Monserrat Apud/Cronkite News)

PHOENIX – The Maricopa County Fair was back in full swing Wednesday for the first time in two years because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I’ve been coming since I was a kid, and it looks like what I remember,” Stephanie Dowdell said as she perused art displays.

The fair, which runs through Sunday at the Arizona Exposition and State Fairgrounds, features a carnival, food and craft vendors, livestock competitions, live music and other entertainment, including a monster-truck show.

Milo Salmon, 2, looks on as piglets snooze at the Maricopa County Fair on Thursday. (Photo by Monserrat Apud/Cronkite News)

“I don’t think there are words to describe it,” said Karen Searle, executive director of the Maricopa County Fair. “It felt like we had been in a cage, and to not be able to bring the fair for the community and celebrate agriculture, education, culture, arts and fair food felt like it had been an eternity.”

The last Maricopa County Fair took place in 2019, leaving many vendors without that income for two years.

“We took it for granted for so long,” said lemonade stand owner Michelle Davis, who has been a vendor at the fair for 20 years. “We didn’t have any business for two years, so we are very happy to get back at it.”

Davis also said the fair looked pretty much the same as it did before the pandemic, but fairgoers seemed to be enjoying everything more.

The livestock barns, with six buildings full of animals, are a county fair staple. Children and teens ages 8 to 19, many of whom are in 4-H or FFA, raise animals, and some of them spend up to a year getting ready for the county fair. Chicken, goats and other animals compete in various livestock and showmanship events.

“I’m just excited for the kids to be back in the ring and showing. They work so hard,” said Amie Blackwell, whose daughters are in FFA and 4-H. “Everybody has come together and worked so hard to make this opening so much more special for the kids.”

(Video by Madison Thomas/Cronkite News)
Monserrat Apud de la Fuente Mon-seh-rat Ah-pud deh lah Fu- en- teh
News Visual Journalist, Phoenix

Monse Apud expects to graduate in May 2022 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Apud, who has interned as a photojournalist at The Arizona Republic and Phoenix Magazine, also was an international radio correspondent for La Cadena Raza. She is working for the Phoenix news bureau and Cronkite Noticias.

Madison Thomas Ma-dih-sin Tom-is (she/her/hers)
Sports Broadcast Reporter, Los Angeles

Madison Thomas expects to graduate in May 2023 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and minor in political science with a certificate in cross-sector leadership. Thomas, who works in sports radio production and distribution for SkyView Networks, has interned with the Phoenix Mayor’s Office and the Varsity Sports Show.