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Ohio State Fair vendors sad but understanding of cancellation

Karen Rutana and her apple dumplings have been at the Ohio State Fair since 1976. In fact, she and her family rely on traveling to outdoor events for their livelihood. So she was disappointed to hear that the Ohio State Fair was canceled this year. But she says she understands.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Karen Rutana knows fairs and festivals. She and her family have been mainstays at them for decades.

Their business, Rutana Concessions, serves up apple dumplings topped with ice cream, along with soda floats.

"Ohio State Fair is one of our favorite fairs, it’s like coming home," Rutana said. "We get the same amount of people every year, whether it’s sunshine or rain, which is wonderful, and that’s very, very rare for a fair to be that way, so it’s just great. It’s one of the best ones around."

Rutana's first year at the fair was back in 1976. These days, she and her family travel to between 40 and 50 events, from April through the end of October. So, as the coronavirus cancels more and more events, it takes a toll.

"Well, it’s a pretty big hit, but we’ll get through it, we’ll get through it," Rutana said. "We were very, very disappointed, of course, because we love the fair so much, but safety comes first. That’s all there is to it. Safety comes first."

Wendy Taylor-Loeser, who runs Eaton Cookies with her husband, agreed. She said she was worried about how she would manage social distancing for her customers and how workers would be able to wear masks all day long.

But for her family, the cookie business is a side business.

For the Rutanas, the work is year-round. Once the season ends, Karen Rutana says she starts preparing for the following year. Meanwhile, her husband spends the off-season building concession trailers.

So, while she will be sad there will be no 2020 fair, she's already looking forward to next year.

"As much as I’m going to miss it and everybody’s going to miss it, I just don’t know how they would have made another decision, and I certainly understand that, and I’m sure that everybody else understands that also," she said.

Rutana also said she hopes to take part in modified, drive-through food vendor events this summer.