BY D’ARCY EGAN
The 56th annual Ottawa County Fair will be held on July 20-26 with a lot of restrictions, due to the coronavirus pandemic, eliminating the fair’s carnival atmosphere with vendors and music and focusing on the Ottawa County Junior Fair competitions.
The Ottawa County Agriculture Society, which governs the annual fair, tried its best to conform to restrictions set by the Ohio Department of Health, said Board President Zak Avers. An OCAS survey fielded more 1,100 suggestions on how to make this year’s fair happen, and ways to blunt the financial repercussions of shutting down many of the attractions and vendors.
The Ottawa County Junior Fair is the heart and soul of the Ottawa County Fair, with youngsters showing off livestock, ranging from sheep and chickens to pigs and steers. Those competitions will not be open to the public, and animals will not be allowed on the fairgrounds for more than 72 hours.
“Most of the livestock will be on the fairgrounds and judged on the same day,” said Fair Director Mike Libben. “We will have a premium sale and an online auction for some animals, but in this economy the area slaughterhouses are overwhelmed right now and it is difficult to find an end market for livestock.”
Youngsters can enter the non-animal competitions in clothing, woodworking, photography and hundreds of other categories, but they will not be on display at the Junior Fair. They will be judged online and the winners will be notified.
There will be no admission fee this year. The OCAS is hoping the community will donate to help make the 2021 county fair a memorable event. To support the Junior Fair, donate to The Kathy Booher Junior Fair Improvement Fund at ottawacountyfair.org.
For folks who have been looking forward to their annual fix of fair food, vendors will be set up during the fair on a limited basis. The vendors are invited to feed the youngsters in the Junior Fair and their families, but will also provide traditional fair food for other visitors.
The fair’s harness racing program on July 20-21 will go on, but not as usual. The stands will be closed and there will be no wagering. The Ohio Department of Agriculture subsidizes the fair harness racing program all around Ohio, including fair track maintenance and repairs, and it is an integral component of the harness racing industry throughout Ohio.
Avers said the object of the OCAS is to educate young 4-Hers and future farmers, and encourage agriculture around the county. He thinks that being able to provide that, even with a restricted county fair, helps further their mission.
“Over the last few months, we’ve spent most of our time tryin to determine what we can do for the kids and the how to handle the judging for the Junior Fair,” said Libben. “We’re happy to be able to do something substantial enough to make a lot of kids smile.”
To help with the financial hit the OCAS will take from the pandemic will be opening of the fairgrounds rental facilities, which are popular for weddings and other social events.
“A lot of our annual income comes from our rental facilities,” said Libben. “We have a wonderful banquet facility, and that helps to pay the bills the rest of the year. When our rentals start coming back, that will really help us out.”