EATON — The 170th Preble County Fair, cut down to only Jr. Fair activities to comply with state health mandates, kicked off on Saturday, Aug. 1. Hundreds of youth began their week of showing off the livestock and other projects they’ve been working diligently on, with family and other Junior Fair participants watching.
When the word came down regarding the state’s cancelling of all non-Junior Fair activities, Senior Fair Board members were “very upset,” according to President Clinnie Stevenson.
Especially when just the week prior they had plans in place for a full fair.
Rides and carnival games already set up were made to tear down and leave. Grandstand infield events were canceled. Vendor tents were taken down. Rumpke Waste trash cans were removed to try and save money, according to Stevenson, as the Senior Fair Board members worked “full bore for Junior Fair shows.”
“It took us a couple nights, but we got everything all figured out,” he continued. “We got a plan for the kids. We wanted to make it fun for the kids, make the shows a good show. And we’ve all put everything into it we can.”
“It’s been awesome so far, everything’s been working out great,” Stevenson said.
“For an unusual fair, I’ve been impressed with how everything’s going with all of our shows so far,” he said. “The kids are complimenting us, the parents are, the junior fair advisors are. It’s been awesome. Everyone loves it.”
Stevenson said the hope is that the remainder of fair week goes the same. “We’re hoping to keep everything safe. All the shows that are lined up should be excellent shows.”
Not having the the general public on the fairgrounds has been helpful in keeping the crowds out of the shows, he noted, “It’s not good for business but it’s been good for the shows.”
Stevenson also clarified the purpose of the $25 weekly membership passes which are non-refundable and causeed some grumbling among purchasers.
“That’s a membership to the Ag Society,” he explained. “It is non-refundable — it’s just like you joined a membership anywhere else. You join a membership to the society, you get the privilege of doing the voting for the board of directors, you get the weekly pass, you get all of the junior fair shows, everything. It’s kind of a privilege if you live in the county. That’s what the membership is for, for everyone in Preble County over the age of 18 years old who would want to be part of the Ag Society.”
It is a misconception people think it’s only a weekly pass, according to Stevenson, who said a lot of people forget by the time Friday comes along, it’s also voting day for board of directors.
“Every year there’s three to four members of the board of directors that are due up — you get a three year term. And, you know, that’s your privilege. If you want to get someone else new onto the board.”
The membership will get members onto the fairgrounds for the food, or to watch the shows — even if they are not 4-H family members who have been given wristbands for admittance.
Passes are available for purchase, $25 each, through Thursday.
Despite storms and heavy rains on Saturday, things are going well, according to Ohio State University Extension 4-H Educator Christy Millhouse said on Sunday.
“I think that things have been going very smoothly,” Millhouse said. “Everybody has worked together and I think that in situations like this when things are tough, that it really shows our resiliency — so people have been resilient, they’ve been making the best of it.“
Millhouse said people have been jumping in to help out.
The mandates have been a challenge, but everyone is making it work, she said.
“I think that any time you’re working with things in a different way it’s always about making sure — how do we make those mandates that we need to make work,” Millhouse said. “Thinking through the details, how do we social distance, how do we make sure that we’re wearing masks when we need to, how do we communicate that — and so it’s really just about rethinking a little bit, but the Fair Board has really taken what could be a really tough thing and really done the best to make it work for everybody.”
Although some non-livestock project categories saw some drops in participation due possibly to no state fair competitions to work toward, livestock categories were pretty steady compared to last year, according to Millhouse.
Despite the absence of rides and games and evening events, Junior Fair participants and their families are finding ways to relax and have fun between shows. “It’s been really exciting because you know we’re seeing people, they’re smiling, they’re working together, they’re having fun — we’ve got kids out playing baseball and they’re playing football together, and they’re having cornhole tournaments — I think it’s just kind of an old fashioned,” she said.
There are plenty of shows remaining for the last half of the week. The remaining schedule is as follows:
Wednesday, Aug. 5
8 a.m. — Jr Fair Poultry Show (Dairy Show Arena)
9 a.m. — Jr Fair Horse & Pony Show (Horse Arena)
10 a.m. — Jr Fair Market Swine Show (Bruner Arena)
4 p.m. — Jr Fair Breeding, Dairy & Exotic Goat Show (Dairy Show Arena)
4-5 p.m. — Jr Fair Premium Rabbit Show Entries (Rabbit Show Arena)
5:30 p.m. — Jr Fair Premium Rabbit Show (Rabbit Show Arena)
7 p.m. — Jr Fair Market Beef Carcass Show (Expo)
Thursday, Aug. 6
8 a.m. — 4-H Cook Off (Toney Building)
9 a.m. — Jr Fair Horse & Pony Show (Horse Arena)
9 a.m. — FFA & 4-H Livestock Judging Contest (Expo)
Noon — Jr Fair Premium Barrow Show (Bruner Arena)
1 p.m. — 4-H Mystery Mixer (Toney Building)
2 p.m. — Jr Fair Breeding & Preble Co Born & Raised Market Sheep Show (Dairy Show Arena)
7 p.m. — Grand Showman of Showmen (Horse Arena)
11 p.m. — Jr Fair Non-Market Livestock Released
Friday Aug. 7
7 a.m. — End of Early release for Jr Fair Non-Market Livestock
9 a.m. — Jr Fair Livestock Sale (Expo, Bruner Arena)
10 a.m. — Silent Auction – Jr Fair Baked Goods, Dairy Auction (Expo Expansion)
Noon-8 p.m. — Voting for Board of Directors (Race Office in Main Office)
Noon — All Jr Fair Market and Non-Market Livestock Released
1 p.m. — All Jr Fair Non-Livestock Projects Released
Saturday Aug. 8
9:30 a.m. — Jr Fair Clothing Judging (Toney Building)
11:30 a.m. — Jr Fair Style Review (Toney Building)
The only non-junior fair event occurring was harness racing. Some have questioned why.
According to Stevenson, it is allowed in the state of Ohio around the state. And it’s not technically a grandstand event, because there are no spectators. There is no betting, no parimutuel, nothing,” Stevenson said. “It is just an event that is put on by the state, paid for by the state, and allowed to be run at county fairgrounds.”
The race remains part of a series, and the Ag Society receives money from the state for providing the location.
Reach Eddie Mowen Jr. at 937-683-4056 or on Twitter @emowen_RH through Friday, Aug. 7.