State fair steeped in tradition

 Photo courtesy of the Ohio Expo Center

Everything from stomach-turning rides to belly-pleasing treats will be available on the Ohio State Fair midway from Aug. 1-12. The midway will also abound with free entertainment and top-name acts performing at the Celeste Center.

Traditions abound at the 154th Ohio State Fair-from fishing in the Natural Resources pond to corn dogs in the midway and heritage displays of handcrafts-and it is time to create new ones with family and friends.

The granddaddy of Ohio fairs runs Aug. 1-12 and features old favorites, new attractions, and almost two weeks filled with free entertainment, thrill rides, national touring acts, and animals, animals, animals.

Professor Wes Weasley will roam the grounds and entertaining crowds with his Theremin, an instrument that can be played without being touched, and fairgoers can listen to Guitar Gus and his lucky horse, Shoo, crafted out of more than 1,000 horseshoes.

Amazing Arthur plans to dazzle audiences with his yo-yo wizardry and humor and "stand-up" mime Michael Lane Trautman takes the Family Fun Stage with the same visual and physical comedy as the great Charlie Chaplin.

"Get along little dogie" takes on new meaning with Doggies of the Wild West, when Marshal Rowdy Yo and his silly sidekick Calamity Jo delight children of all ages with the cast of "Pooches from the Prairie."

The show includes comedic canines, dancing dogs, and the world’s only pup to balance on one paw. All of the dogs were rescued from animal shelters from around the country.

There are four main venues for free performing acts: the Gazebo, Cox Fine Arts Center, Family Fun Stage and the Main Street Stage, in addition to roving entertainers and the afternoon parade.

At the Main Street Stage, new acts include Ohio’s own Rustic Blue, with musical influences such as Patsy Cline and Elvis Presley; Enchanted, a Fleetwood Mac tribute band; Tony Rio and Relentless; 7th Heaven, a Chicago pop/rock featured on MTV; and southern-style Double Barrel, featuring original songs and covers of individuals and groups like Lynyrd Skynyrd, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Aerosmith, and Johnny Cash.

In addition to free musical acts, new this year is the Marcan Tiger Show where visitors can not only watch these beautiful cats perform, they can also learn about problems facing tigers in the wild in an educational and entertaining way.

Bicycle stunt riders on BMX bikes will thrill and amaze fairgoers with seemingly impossible aerial tricks at the Satellite Sports BMX Stunt Show.


Top-name acts

While plenty of free entertainment can  be found throughout the grounds-enough to fill a fair day-the Celeste Center is host to artists such as former "American Idol"  finalist Chris Daughtry with special guest Day of Fire, Aug. 1, $32; George Jones and Merle Haggard, Aug. 4, $30; All-Ohio State Fair Band and Youth Choir Concert, Aug. 5, free; Diana Reyes, Aug. 5, $15; Johnny Cash Tribute Show, Aug. 7, free; Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo, Aug.  7, $18; Weird Al Yankovic, Aug. 8, $20; and "High School Musical" actor Corbin Bleu and Drake Bell with special guest Jordan Pruitt, Aug 9, $25.

Quiet Riot with vocalist Mark Slaughter takes the stage on Aug.11 with a concert bringing the heavy metal sound to the Celeste stage. Tickets are $8.

The final day of the fair, Aug. 12, ends with the Sale of Champions Livestock Auction at 2 p.m., followed by Rascal Flatts with special guest Jason Aldean at 7:30 p.m. Ticket prices are $45 and $55.

Reserved tickets for free shows are available at the center’s box office the day of the show only, beginning at 10 a.m. and 8 a.m. for 1 p.m. shows, on a first-come basis and limited to four tickets per person. Tickets for paid shows can be purchased through Ticketmaster outlets and include free fair admission.


Rides, contests & games

The rides are fast and furious in the midway, although a pair of attractions continues to offer sky-high fun for fairgoers many years after they first debuted. The Giant Slide premiered in 1969 and stands 45 feet tall and is 144 feet long. The fair is also home to one of the world’s longest portable sky rides, which extends nearly one-half mile across the grounds. Access sites are located inside the Cardinal gate and Kiddieland. A one-way ride is $3 or $5 for a round trip.

The best of Ohio’s home canning, cake decorating (both beautiful and ugly), breads, heart healthy cuisine, quilting, sewing, scrapbooking, antiques, and even creative ways to dress up Spam are on display at the DiSalle Center. The center features a fashion show on Aug. 4 when seamstresses of all ages display their handiwork.

New to the 154th fair is a children’s gingerbread house competition which features opportunities for children to bring in an already completed gingerbread house in addition to an on-site competition.

Former Cleveland Browns player Ray Bloch is serving as a judge for the annual Ugliest Decorated Cake Contest. Kids will also have the chance to decorate their ugly creations at the fair.

Spend a few moments cooling off in the Ohio Food Pavilion with an Ohio Proud meal where daily Heartland Cuisine food demonstrations are presented. Don’t forget to pick up a free copy of a cookbook featuring Heartland recipes. You can also pick up a cheese sandwich in the Dairy Products Building and then take a look at the Butter Cow on display in a giant 45 degree refrigerated cooler.

In the early 1900s, Ohio State University and dairy processors sponsored butter-sculpting contests at the fair. Eventually, the butter cow and calf found a permanent place in the dairy building, which was constructed in the 1920s. New sculptures are crafted every year and have become a tradition.

An eight-acre Natural Resources Park features free fishing and archery for youngsters, along with displays on Ohio wildlife and a larger-than-life Smokey the Bear. The park’s amphitheatre hosts music and informative programs by the Division of Wildlife.

The fair is also host to many sports competitions including boxing, wrestling, and martial arts. On Aug. 4-5, baton twirlers will carry on a tradition started in 1966 with contests featuring a variety of categories in Ameripark.

At the ShowPlace Pavilion on Aug. 11, cheerleaders from all over Ohio will perform cheer and gymnastic routines for prizes from regional sponsors.

Special days and promotions help fairgoers save a little money so they have more to spend on elephant ears, candy apples, and deep fried candy bars. Opening day admission is only $2 until 6 p.m.; Kroger Plus card members can get $4 off gate admission on Aug. 3; Veterans and active-duty military members with proper identification get in free Aug. 5; on Aug 6, adults are admitted for the kids’ price of $7 and children 12 and under admitted free, in addition, purchase one midway wristband and a second rider can ride for free until 6 p.m.; admission on Aug. 8 is $5 all day; and show a AAA card on Aug. 9 and get $4 off admission. Bring a Coca-Cola product to any entrance gate for $2 admission until 6 p.m. on the final day of the fair.

Discount admission tickets are $6 and available through Aug. 12 at Kroger stores, Ticketmaster outlets, and participating AAA locations. General admission gate prices are $8, adults; $7, children 5-12 and seniors 60 and older; free for children under five. Most kiddie rides require one coupon, which is $1. Super kiddie and rides catering to older children and adults require two or more coupons. Special ride-all-day wristbands are available for $20 every day at the fair.

Gates open at 9 a.m. and close at 10 p.m. Midway rides for younger patrons, along with mechanical behemoths enticing seasoned thrill seekers, are open from 10 a.m.-11 p.m., Sunday-Thursday, and Friday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-midnight. Commercial buildings open at 10 a.m. and the Youth Discover Center and Rhodes Center are open from 9 a.m.-8 p.m. All other exhibit buildings are open from 9 a.m.-9 p.m.

Parking is $5 per vehicle and handicapped parking is provided. Complementary shuttles ferry passengers to and from the main entrance gate and vehicles. Strollers, wagons, wheelchairs, and electric carts are available for rent at the OHIO and Cardinal Gates and the free State Fair Shuttle Express makes frequent stops around the perimeter of the grounds from 9 a.m.-10 p.m.

For information, visit online or call the fair’s recorded information line at 644-FAIR.


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