PC: Karen Leis

Darke County residents say goodbye to beloved swine barn

By Risë Labig, marketing specialist for Ohio’s Country Journal and Ohio Ag Net

Last night we lost one of our grand dame buildings at the Great Darke County Fair — our swine building. Oh, the memories that barn has held for us! I stopped by the fairgrounds this morning to see what was left of our grand barn. Sadly, it’s a total loss. I saw folks stopping by to take a look, in disbelief. I even saw more than a few adults with tears in their eyes. I will admit I still have a few.

What wonderful memories that old barn gave so many of us over the years! Almost 40 years ago now, a hog farmer from Darke County invited a dairy farmer’s daughter from Seneca county on a date to his fair. (In all honesty, I thought that this guy won’t last — he’s taking me to a FAIR for our first date?)

I was hooked. It is a fair like no other, and it’s a fair like no other because of the memories that so many 4-Her’s, advisors, family and friends make that week, especially in our beloved swine barn.

I can’t tell you exactly how old the barn was, and I hope someone will share in my comments a bit more of history I may not know. The barn was special. It had a “balcony” where specific seating was so revered people were known to bolt down their chairs. More than a few squirt guns and laser guns were aimed to those innocent victims standing below. When you stood below and looked up, you automatically knew who was going to be sitting where because, well, that’s where they always sat.

One of the reasons the loss of our grand old barn causes such sadness is because it’s where so many of us spent so much of the week during the summer. Often, once you got to the fair on Friday, you didn’t leave the grounds until after the hog sale on Wednesday. Life didn’t exist outside of our fair. You were at the barn, or your trailer, eating fair food, or visiting. It simply didn’t get any better. We all worked hard and played hard. It was such fun to see the kids having fun and making their own memories. Even though we were all from the same county, it provided time to actually visit with our neighbors. And we did it standing inside this barn, or just outside it.

When I saw the demise of our building this morning, I had that same feeling, only magnified, of when the hog sale is over. It’s all done. Time to go home. What do we do now? It kind of feels like that with this treasured building now gone. What will next year bring?

The Darke County swine barn house a beautiful wedding this spring.

The barn saw some excitement this past May when it held its first wedding. I have included a picture that is a favorite of mine. I was blown away by how wonderfully decorated it was, and the highlight for me was the chandelier in the center of the barn. Everyone was in awe that our old hog barn could look so spectacular. What a treasure, that photos taken for that wedding will now offer a part of history of the inside of the barn. They just don’t design barns like this one anymore. Perhaps that is also part of what makes us sad. Life changes and we don’t always want it to. We like some things to remain the same.

While today is a sad one for so many of us, in another way it brings all of us who experienced the barn a bit closer. We can just look at each other and “know” that we all hold special memories of a special time. The barn will be replaced, and we will marvel at the newness of it when it’s complete. Our fair board members will need our support as a new building commences, so while I don’t think anyone in our county won the billion dollar lottery, every gift given will be greatly appreciated and cherished by future generations. I hope we all step up and help replace our grand dame with something she would be proud of. Thank you, our dear swine barn, for the wonderful memories.

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  1. Thank you Rise Labig, for your beautiful article. It hit a lot of hearts in this county… as did the news of that GREAT barn brought a lot of sadness to so many who had wonderful memories and countless hours in the ole barn. It will be truly be missed by so many. Time will heal the sadness and new memories will be made, but the glory we all have shared will never be forgotten, where it be a parent, grandparent, friend or passer by, it won’t be forgotten to so many of us.

  2. Very well said Risa. It was a grand building indeed. Kdub realized she was the last grand champion at this barn and it was emotional.

  3. I know the feeling of when the fair is over. I always compared the day after fair like the day after Christmas only worse. My memories are of the Morgan County cattle barns. We moved our cattle in on Wednesday and didn’t know the midway existed until Saturday afternoon when the cattle left. Cards, water fights, helping everyone to get ready for the show ring and show boxes were usually full of homemade cookies to share. The fair was our “vacation” and memories of another time in life.

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