County officials frustrated by attacks over fair cancellation

Jason Bennett

CUMBERLAND — The Allegany County Board of Commissioners fired back verbally Thursday in response to attacks on social media blaming them for the cancellation of the county fair.

Commissioners Jake Shade, Dave Caporale and Creade Brodie Jr. voted unanimously at Thursday's county meeting to cancel the Allegany County Fair and Ag Expo scheduled for July 17-23. However, news of the cancellation had circulated online earlier this week.

Despite the cancellation being influenced by outside decisions related to the COVID-19 pandemic such as the University of Maryland suspending 4-H Club activities through Aug. 1, and carnival operators not being able to travel, the commissioners have been taking heat online for scrubbing the fair.

Brodie said he is "appalled by some of the remarks" he has seen on social media. He said threats were made by people who thought the commissioners were responsible for the decision.

"I don't follow Facebook, but when I get screenshots and stuff where people are threatening us over the fair ... no one enjoys the fair more than the three of us," said Brodie. "We are there all week straight. But to have the fair is impossible, yet you see threats against the three of us that bad stuff is going to happen to us over something that we don't control.

"When I see comments like 'the commissioners need to man-up,' and do what? Remove the governor of the state of Maryland? The only thing we're doing tonight was formalizing (the cancellation). If we could have the fair, by all means it would happen. We don't know when Phase 2 (of the governors' Maryland Strong Roadmap to Recovery) is even going to start. As far as I've read, no large events can happen until Phase 3. To say we are only six weeks out from the fair and that it's going to happen, I can almost assure everyone that it is not. That is not the commissioners' decision — that is the governor's decision. The lockdown of the state is not coming through Allegany County. Any time we are given the authority to open up something, we open and allow everything we can."

Caporale said, "I want to stress, I think people were interpreting that we are all canceling the fair, but ultimately that was not our decision. What we were up against at this point can't allow the fair to go on at this time. I think that anything we can accommodate to proceed, we would advise to do so. This is obviously an exception to that. Going forward we want to get things moving as quickly and safely as possible."

Concerts scheduled for the fair included AC/DC tribute band Live Wire, Australian contemporary Christian group For King and Country, and country singer Josh Turner.

County Finance Director Jason Bennett said many of the acts and vendors are expected to return for the 2021 fair next summer.

Also at the county meeting, the commissioners voted unanimously to select Bennett as the interim county administrator. Bennett will replace Brandon Butler, who submitted his resignation in early May.

"I don't think Jason will need any time to take on the role and I think he will be able to help us to continue to get us through COVID-19 and all the other challenges the county faces," said Shade. "I thank Brandon Butler for his service. We appreciate what you've been able to do for us over the past two years and I look for Jason to keep building on that success."

Caporale, in a Times-News interview prior to the meeting, said a search for a new county administrator is unlikely and the board expects Bennett to eventually become permanent. He said Bennett will also oversee the finance department, making the need to hire a new finance director unnecessary.

Follow staff writer Greg Larry on Twitter @GregLarryCTN.

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