By Matt Reese
Happy New Year! The top web stories from 2020, as you may guess, took quite a departure from the norm. Web traffic expanded significantly in 2020 at ocj.com but we did not have many of the normal events that typically drive our top posts, such as the Ohio State Fair and crop tours. Much of the resulting drama of not having these events showed up very clearly in the top stories of 2020. I will say there are some surprising results in here (to me anyway) from a 2020 that was never short on uncertainty and, quite frankly, insanity.
Kolt Buchenroth nearly broke the Internet with this story (our website actually did shut down temporarily due to the traffic) that exploded with his reporting from a July 22 meeting between Governor Mike DeWine and Ohio’s fair managers covering hot topics including COVID cases, wearing masks at fairs, and the Ohio Youth Livestock Expo. The governor was not holding back his dismay regarding the uptick in COVID cases tied to county fairs. There was some dismay from the county fair side of things as well, as one could imagine. This story is a real sign of the times for the incredibly wild ride that was the 2020 fair season. See more as it all unfolded below.
Back in late May, the uncertainty about county fair season had hit its peak as communities and fair managers around the state were scrambling to find anything concrete to make decisions and set plans. There was not much to go on. The release of the guidelines, though, generated even more questions and concerns as many fairs found them unrealistic to implement.
By May 6, as fairs started to cancel, fair leaders, government officials and county health departments were working feverishly to find realistic and acceptable options for Ohio’s fairs.
On June 9, the State pulled back the rigorous guidelines that would make it virtually impossible to run financially viable events. State financial assistance for fairs was also announced in this story by Dusty Sonnenberg. How did the changes go with the new relaxed guidelines? See the top story of 2020.
Intern Madi Kregel cracked into the top 10 with this one. There was a time in 2020 (in February specifically) where fair officials around the state thought their biggest concern of the year was ractopamine being fed to pigs. As it turned out, it wasn’t.
In a bizarre ad campaign based on shaky science, flawed logistics and incorrect assumptions, Burger King touted feeding lemongrass to cattle to reduce climate change. The delightful Doc Sanders addressed the issues and set the science straight, but also gave Burger King kudos for ultimately reversing their course on this Whopper of a story. If you did not see the initial ad, you can view it at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zNI8zVmHCng. It will further shape your impressions looking back on the insanity of 2020.
On May 21, I talked with an emotional Virgil Strickler who was fresh off the incredibly tough decision to cancel the 2020 Ohio State Fair.
Then in early June I talked with Tracy Dendinger, one of the many volunteers at work putting together the Ohio Youth Livestock Expo to offer Ohio State Fair livestock exhibitors the chance to show. Despite incredible odds and weeks of daily changing challenges, the Darke County show series was a success by all measure.
Wonderful OCJ field reporter Brianna Gwirtz made it into the top 10 this year with a heart-warming story about deaf farmer Matt Fry. Both Matt and his wife are deaf and their two children can hear. In the August story, Matt shared about the ways he has been able to overcome the challenges of not being able to hear on the grain and cattle operation.
Madi Kregel again in the top 10 with this great story about TJ and Jack Waldock in Wood County raising shrimp and tilapia in an effort to diversify the family vegetable operation. The business has taken tremendous work and investment to get going but is a dream come true for the seafood-loving brothers.