By Matt Reese
The Ohio State Fair is almost here, though the 2021 installment will be significantly different than in the past. The focus will be entirely on youth and agricultural activities this year following an extremely challenging 2020 when the event was canceled.
“We have been able to survive and make it through it to put on an agricultural fair this year. That is what is closest to my heart — to be able to have a junior and senior livestock show. We have been able to put together enough staff to help us get that accomplished this year,” said Virgil Strickler, general manager of the Ohio State Fair. “The agricultural side is the roots of the fair and at least we are starting to get that back up and running.”
The 2021 Ohio State Fair is not open to the general public. It will only be open for exhibitors, their families, and their guests this year.
“Only families should be coming to the fair. We understand there are aunts and uncles and other family members and relatives, and advisors, that could be guests of the exhibitors,” Strickler said. “Anyone who comes to the fair will just be paying for parking. You can pay for a single day, the whole fair or half the fair if you want.”
The fair will also be divided into a week of breeding livestock and a week of junior market livestock shows. Final drives for each species will be combined into Grand Drive events at the end of each week. The Grand Drive for the breeding exhibitors of the various species will be held on July 31 at 4 p.m. The junior market Grand Drive will be held on Aug. 7 at 2 p.m.
“What will be a little different this year is we have the breeds come in the first week. We’ll have a major drive for all of the breed species. We’ll bring them into the Coliseum and everyone will be able to come in and watch each one of the species be picked for the breed drive,” Strickler said. “The last week will be all market. We’ll have a final drive for all of the market species that week. That will be held in the Coliseum also. We are going to really try to spruce up the honor of being there and showing in those champion drives to make sure it is a great experience for the youth.”
The skillathons and the Outstanding Market Exhibitor programs will continue as usual, with the youth being highlighted in those categories at the Grand Drive events and the Sale of Champions, which will be held on Sunday, Aug. 8, the last day of the Ohio State Fair.
The 2021 Ohio State Fair will kick off with the junior horse shows.
“July 19 is when the junior horse show will start. The llama show comes in that week. Everything else comes in the 26thof July through Aug. 8 on Sunday with the Sale of Champions,” Strickler said. “This year we looked at it as being able to have our full facility available to spread out and put on a great livestock event. The Lausche Building will be 4-H and non-livestock. The Girl Scouts will be up there too. We’ll have the Brown Building for the sheep, the Gilligan for the dairy. The beef cattle will all be tied under the viaduct this year and they will show in Cooper Arena. The dairy cattle will show in the Coliseum after the horses are done. The Boer goats are coming in the last week, which we are calling our market week. They will be housed in the Voinovich Building and we’ll have the swine in the O’Neill Building.”
The Junior Horse schedule is from July 19 to July 23. Shows are in Ag-Pro Companies Taft Coliseum, Cooper Arena, and Denny Hales Arena. Llama and alpaca events will be held July 22 through July 24 starting with animal arrival at 8 a.m. on July 22 in the Brown Sheep Building. Beef shows will be held July 25 through Aug. 8 starting with Session 1 check-in after 6 p.m. on July 25. Shows will be held in Cooper Arena. Dairy cattle events will be held from July 27 to July 31 and Aug. 2 through Aug. 8. Dairy events start off with exhibitor setup on July 27. The shows will be held in Ag-Pro Companies Taft Coliseum. Boer goat events will be July 31 and Aug. 5 though Aug. 8. The events will be in the Voinovich Livestock & Trade Center and Ag-Pro Companies Taft Coliseum.
Poultry events will be held July 28 through July 31 and Aug. 4 though Aug. 8. Open class poultry check-in begins in the Rabbit and Poultry Pavilion at 9 a.m. on July 28. Junior check-in is on Aug. 4 starting at noon. Rabbit events are July 30 and July 31 starting with arrival and check-in at 8 a.m. on July 30.
Sheep events will be held July 29 through Aug. 2 and Aug. 5 through Aug. 8. Breeding sheep check-in starts at 6 a.m. on July 29. Junior market lamb check-in is Aug. 5 in the Brown Sheep Arena. Swine events are from July 25 through Aug. 8. Session 1 starts at 10 a.m. on July 25 and Session 2 begins July 29 in the O’Neill Swine Building.
Strong entry numbers have come in and, despite significant current challenges with finding labor, the staff has been assembled for the event.
“We are thankful to be able to host this event this year for people coming in from all over our great state,” Strickler said. “I am so thankful we can have this fair. There are many things we have been dealing with, but now we’re really looking forward to what I would consider a great agricultural fair.”
For much more, visit ohiostatefair.com.