It takes hard work, dedication and intense behind-the-scenes planning to put on a county fair. That’s why the Junior Fair and 4-H program of the Madison County OSU Extension invited the public to help evaluate the 2007 fair and launch planning for 2008.
At the Della Selsor Building in London on Aug. 21, participants separated into groups to discuss topics of interest. The idea, said Janet Wasko Myers, executive educator for 4-H Youth Development at the Extension Office, was to bring awareness to the success and any disappointments of this year’s fair and the changes that need to be made for next year’s fair.
“We have a long standing history of county fairs, and we are here to improve and get ideas for next year. Creativity sometimes comes from disagreements; this is an opportunity to get feedback from the board members and the community,” Myers said.
Strengths, Weaknesses, Ideas
When listing strengths of this year’s fair, attendees said Senior Fair Board and Extension members were well prepared and organized. The fairgrounds were cleaner, and the youths and adults worked together to make it all happen.
OSU student Laura Schaller, an Extension office assistant, said, “Attendance was up from last year but we want to focus on increased participation as well as attendance for next year.”
As for weaknesses, participants said more species need to be clean coming into the fair and the weigh-in procedure needs to be re-evaluated.
Other suggestions included: the addition of special fair days for people with mental retardation, veterans, and handicapped citizens; the pursuit of more sponsors; and the need for more special interest categories.
Bill McDonald, a 4-H club advisor, 4-H beef key leader, and member of the Junior Fair Livestock Sale Committee, offered up a suggestion that addresses the expense of showing animals.
“Start a steer project where a youth would bring a feeder calf to the fair, and at the conclusion of the fair, that child would go through the premium sale, but that child would maintain possession of the feeder so that they could bring a less expensive calf to the fair as a steer the following year,” he said.
“Most kids cannot afford to go out and buy a calf for a steer project, therefore they are stuck with a beef or dairy feeder every year. We need to give these kids more opportunities.”
Grand Champion Argument
Another common topic was resurrection of the grand champion contest.
“We do not have a grand or reserve champion contest anymore, and we need to think about having more animals that are marketable, which would bring in more money,” Schaller said.
In the past, there were issues with people going out-of-state to buy steers at the last minute, just to get a better quality animal for the show, Schaller said. As a result, the program was changed to focus more on showmanship.
“But now we are realizing that we are not attracting as many buyers because we don’t have quality animals,” she said.
McDonald was among the people who said the grand champion contest needs to return to the fair.
“The same people win every year because they have more money and can buy a better animal. For all I care, it can be a three-legged pig. If it makes weight, then enter it. Bring the quality of animals back,” he said.
Monroe Harbage, a 4-H key leader for industrial arts projects and a resident of Plain City, disagreed with McDonald and adamantly stated: “Folks, we are doing it right. No matter what you want to do, put in a rate-of-gain contest where the animals are marked and weighed. Then they can’t raise the weight up and then shrink it down to win. I will never, ever vote for a grand champion for this county.”
The final decision on the grand champion issue lies in the hands of the Senior Fair Board.
“They made the decision to stop it back in the ’60s and they can make the decision tomorrow to put it back,” Harbage said.
Always open to suggestions
Abby Keyt, who will be a junior at The Ohio State University this fall, has been involved with the Madison County Fair for 13 years.
“Every county fair has room for improvement. We’ve always had our ups and downs, but we pretty much run on the same program as in the past. We don’t want to change everything at once—we take it step-by-step,” she said.
“A county fair is a replica of the traditions of that particular county, and unless you know your citizens and your county, you cannot have a true county fair.”
Keyt continued, “When we bring in the community and have a public meeting like this, it enables us to find out what the community wants and what we need to do to make changes in the future to make it more appealing.”
Tom Fisher, Senior Fair Board president, said the public doesn’t have to wait for special meetings. Anyone can attend the board’s monthly meetings to share their two cents.
“We want to hear their opinions and complaints because everything goes through the board,” he said.
Sandy Adrian, Madison County’s Junior Fair coordinator, said that two to three weeks before the fair, she is bombarded with people offering ideas or suggesting changes.
“By then, it’s too late to make changes or get involved. We need people to get involved now…We can grow from change,” she said.
The Senior Fair Board meets the first Wednesday of each month at 7 p.m. in the Fair Secretary’s Office on the Madison County Fairgrounds in London. The 4-H program at the Extension Office can be reached at 740-852-0975.