Monday, March 2, 2009

The County Fair

I got my first confirmation of the year to judge a county fair last week. I have been judging all types of projects and displays at county fairs for years.

It came natural from my background. I started 4-H in the third grade and have been actively involved with fairs ever since.

My first project was a Holstein heifer. I will never forget showing her in my white outfit dairy exhibitors wear. Everyone said she was big for her age but when I got to the ring she was dwarfed by the competition. The kid who won ended up being my brother's English teacher. He obviously paid no attention to the birth date of the animal compared to the rules.

As an ag teacher you would run into difficulty finding a judge for a class and I was asked to judge at an early age. That just kept building up to the point where I judge many crop shows today.

I may not be in so much demand if the economy hits fairs like some predict. Fairboards have been having really tough times for decades and if they are still hanging on, income versus expense will be a real challenge this year.

People don't go to the fair like they used to. Fairs were started in this country over 150 years ago to get the farm community together to show their best production and share ideas with neighbors and leaders in the industry.

Ohio is a very active state for agricultural exhibition where there are no fairs in some states now. All 88 counties have a fair and there are several independent fairs.

I still enjoy county and state fairs but only go to the ones I judge usually. That is usually Clermont, Clinton, Warren, Montgomery, Greene and Clark county, maybe a few more.

Favorite county fairs? The Little State Fair in Brown County, my home fair as a child, the great Darke County Fair in Greenville and the Fairfield County Fair in Lancaster, Ohio. Williams County now has one of the largest fairgrounds thanks to the acquisition of a farm next to the fairgrounds and a beautiful wooden covered bridge connecting the two across the St. Joseph River. You have to go see it at least once!

I doubt these fairs will ever fade but I know some will fall the next two years unless some drastic changes happen.

The best thing we could all do is make an entry to our fair this year and buy the required exhibitors ticket. Then we could go visit the fair with our neighbors and everyone would be a little better off.

Ed Winkle

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