In a second update on Thursday, officials in Seneca County responded to the ongoing debate in Seneca over the future of the Empire Farm Days expo.
“We are not happy that circumstances force the Board to take this action. However, we can only make decisions that protect the safety of our community as a whole,” Board Chairman Bob Hayssen said in a statement. “There has been a long history of success with this event in Seneca County, held at the Rodman Lott & Sons Farm, located in the Town of Seneca Falls. It is hoped that as circumstances change, Empire Farm days will return to Seneca County better than before.”
Public Health Director Vickie Swinehart added that due to the unusual circumstances of the moment – safely holding the expo was not reasonable. “With a pandemic emergency, these are not ordinary times. What was acceptable a year ago is not acceptable for our community today,” she said.
Officials say they advised Lee Newspapers, Inc. of Palatine Bridge, New York of the Board’s decision to not allow the the expo to move forward around noon on Wednesday.
They responded with a politically-charged statement, which was reported on Thursday (see below).
Citing the current Executive Orders generally prohibiting gatherings of more than 25 persons, the lack of timely permit applications, as well the potential adverse impact on the public health and safety of the Seneca County community as a whole, the decision was overwhelming supported by the members of the Board of Supervisors.
Officials say input from various representatives, including local emergency management, first responders, law enforcement, public health, and New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, the supervisors made that difficult decision to not allow Empire Farm Days to take place in 2020.
EMPIRE FARM DAYS CANCELLED: Organizers ‘upset’ over decision, points to contradiction at state-level policies
Empire Farm Days has been cancelled.
A statement was issued by Bruce Button, Vice President and General Manager of Lee Newspapers, Inc. expressing disappointment with the Seneca County Board of Superivsors’ decision to not allow Farm Days to take place.
“We are beyond upset with the decision of the Seneca County Board of Supervisors to not allow Empire Farm Days to take place,” the statement began. “They cited the fact that there was not enough time for the various agencies to review the permits we applied for even though we are still over 30 days out from the show dates.”
Button partly defended the supervisors decision to not allow Empire Farm Days to move forward – noting that Governor Andrew Cuomo’s directives “tied their hands through lack of any clear guidance for an event like this.”
“Our attendees are from the rural areas of New York State that have had the least incidences of this virus and our exhibitors are the essential businesses that have been open throughout this whole time period. What possible harm could come to the people of Seneca County except to have hotels and restaurants as busy as possible,” Button added. “Empire Farm Days is not a county fair. We do not have rides, games or the concentration of attendees that county fairs have. This is an ag community business event. Now over 400 ag businesses no longer have the opportunity to meet their customers. Numerous non-profits have lost their only source of revenue. How is all of this economic activity ever going to be replaced?”
Button contends that organizers had a ‘solid safety plan’ in place. “We had heard all of the recommendations from the Health Department, Code Enforcement and Ag & Markets and could easily comply with all of then to make this event safe for attendees and exhibitors. The final straw was the Governor’s executive order limiting the number of people that can currently gather in one place,” he continued.
County Attorney David Ettman said that a significant factor in the decision was the Executive Order mandating that gatherings do not exceed 25. Thousands turn out annually for the massive farm expo in Seneca Falls.
“Your proposed event does not qualify for any of those exceptions. We have no reason to believe that any further lessening of the restrictions for your type of event will be forth coming,” Ettman told Button, according to the press release. “In addition, current Executive Orders would prohibit NY State Police assistance to Seneca County and Seneca Falls law enforcement, which we consider necessary to public safety surrounding your planned event. We are saddened that circumstances force the county to make this decision. However, we can only make decisions that protect the safety of our community as a whole.”
That is when Button turned his attention to recent protests surrounding the Black Lives Matter movement.
“Apparently it is okay to have a peaceful protest with thousands of attendees with no way of knowing who they are or where they came from. We were going to have a registration list of all attendees available, exhibits were going to be spread out even more than usual, numerous extra sanitation stations were going to be on the grounds as well as by the portable toilets and food services were going to be able to comply with the current dining regulations,” Button said. “Empire Farm Days sincerely feels this is an injustice to the New York Ag community , the small businesses and non-profit organizations in Seneca County that have benefitted from the event for the last 30 plus years. Tentatively our dates for next years event are for August 3-5, 2021.”