TOPSFIELD — It takes 18 months to plan an event the size of the Topsfield Fair. 

So many of the pieces are already in place. 

But in the COVID-19 pandemic, all things are subject to change. 

"As of now, it's still on," said David Thomson, a spokesman for the fair, run by the Essex Agricultural Society. 

Thomson and fair general manager James O'Brien spoke last week. They decided to give it a few more weeks, until July 15, to make the call. 

"I think by mid-July, a decision is going to have to be made," Thomson said. "We'd love to be able to offer it as long as it's safe." 

There has also been some discussion about how a fair might look with limited offerings. And it's still not known whether the performers and vendors will all be able to participate as scheduled. There is a concern that some musical acts or other types of performers might have to cancel. 

Much of the fair takes place outdoors, but there are exhibit halls and the arena. 

The fair had already invested in setting up handwashing and sanitizer stations a few years ago over concerns about spreading illness after contact with the many animals that are also participants. "We just purchased many more additional units," said Thomson. 

Financially, canceling the fair would be another hit on the small organization, which had some weather-related event cancellations last year. 

It would also have an effect on community organizations, students and others that receive support from the Essex Agricultural Society, Thomson said. 

The organization has also had to cancel rentals of facilities at the Topsfield Fairgrounds through Aug. 1, cutting another key source of income. Events are currently set to resume there on Aug. 1, but Thomson said they are watching to see if there's another wave of the virus. 

It's not the first time that a pandemic has forced the cancellation of the fair. 

A little more than a century ago, the fair was canceled due to the 1918 influenza outbreak. 

Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, or on Twitter at @SNJulieManganis. 

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