The county fair is a long standing, and cherished, tradition in many parts of rural (and urban) Ohio. But, like anything, county fairs have had to evolve as society has changed around them.
With that in mind, the Ohio Fair Managers Association (OFMA) has emphasized some of the changing roles of the county fair at the 89th Annual Convention and Trade Show last weekend.
“We have kind of lost our rural identity in some of our counties. The agricultural education of our
customers at our fairs is so much more important now than it ever was,” said Howard Call, executive director of the OFMA. “People don’t know where the product they get in the store comes from. Our fairs are doing a lot more education about how products are grown. They are doing seminars, they have posters up, and that is important here in Ohio.”
County fairs are also staying current with food buying trends.
“People are so conscious anymore about what they eat. We are seeing farm markets showing up at some fairs now,” Call said. “People want that homegrown product that they know where it came from, especially if it is from their county.”
Fair are also seeing resurgence in the ever-popular demolition derbies and tractor pulls. There is increased effort of fairgrounds facilitating other, similar events throughout the year.
“We are encouraging our fairs to be looking out for the other 51 weeks,” Call said. “There are opportunities out there with tourism to use the fairgrounds for more than just the fair. We can bring
people in during the cold season to generate additional income.”
There were around 1,200 youth in attendance at the event along with senior fair board members from around the state and a bustling trade show.
The 2014 Ohio Fairs’ Queen was Kathryn Whinnery, from Adena, representing Jefferson County Fair on Saturday Jan. 11. Whinnery is a senior at St. Clairsville High School and plans on attending College in the Biological Engineering Medical Field. She is a 10-year 4-H member project interests are Clothing, Market Swine, Market Beef and Nutrition.
The Ohio Fair Managers Queen Program for the 2014 Pageant drew 69 County and Independent Fair Queens who were interviewed by teams of judges, introduced themselves on the Pageant evening stage, 15 finalists were selected and asked to define a word meaning. The judging teams then selected the top five candidates, who were interviewed by the teams for the final selections and court.
The 2014 supporting court are: Morgan Ricker from Putnam County; Megan Hingsbergen, Butler County; Shelby Furer, Richwood Independent Fair; and Grace Dannemiller, Fairfield County.
There were also several inductions into the OFMA Hall of Fame. These included: Jon Overmyer, Ottawa County Fair; Robert Toth, Medina County Fair; James McClure, Coshocton County; and Howard L. Call, Summit County Fair.