By Patricia Beech –
It was the best fair in years!
That was the consensus among those who attended the 2016 Adams County Fair. “Even when people offered criticism, it wasn’t at all negative,” said Fair Board President, Liz Lafferty. “They were more like suggestions for next year.”
What made the difference this year? In a word – community. Individuals, groups, businesses, schools, and corporations – all came together and pulled the occasion up by its boot straps. With dogged determination and a lot of elbow grease, they began the hard work of reclamation and renovation.
By July 10 the fairgrounds were in apple-pie order – the buildings were cleaned and the lawns mowed, but the centerpiece of the 125th Adams County Fair was the stately, cavernous grandstand curving round the southern edge of the center ring. Rare as a covered bridge, its rails draped with red, white, and blue banners, the stars and stripes flying above its pillars, the nearly 80-year old wooden structure was the hub and focal point of fair week.
Record crowds from the first day to the last slowed traffic entering the fairground to a crawl. “It’s nice to hear people talking about how long they had to wait in line just to get into the fair,” said Sherry Cluxton, a three-year member of the Junior Fair Board.
The fair’s remarkable turnaround has garnered considerable attention from other counties who are struggling to rebuild their own fairs. According to Lafferty, more than 50 of Ohio’s county fairs are in dire straits. “They want to know what we’re doing, how we’re turning it around,” said Lafferty.
This year’s Senior Fair rolled out numerous attractions, concessions, and venues for concerts, sporting events, and competitions. “Something for everyone,” Lafferty says.
The Demolition Derbies and the Motor Cross Races, the Senior Citizens and Armed Services Day, the Horse Shows and animal showmanship, the Cheerleading Competition, the Baked Goods auction, and the Tractor Pulls and Antique Tractor Display all drew record-breaking numbers. The annual People’s Defender Cornhole Tournament for youngsters 7-15 was also very well-attended.
Thursday night’s Open Rodeo packed a sold-out crowd into the newly-renovated grandstand, with Hall of Fame Cincinnati Reds radio broadcaster Marty Brennaman among them. Saturday’s Demolition Derby played to a packed house in the Derby Arena, and crowds returned to the center ring to watch as Peebles High School swept away the competition in the Barnyard Olympics, winning $1,000 for their school’s Athletic Fund.
“Every event seemed to have a huge crowd,” said Cluxton. “It’s so nice to see the pride and excitement back in the Adams County Fair.”
The Junior Fair met with equal success.
“We had a great week at the fair,” said Beth Brown, whose daughter Hope shows goats as her 4-H project. “A lot of improvements have been made at the fair and I only heard positive comments all week.”
Sarah McFarland, First Runner-up in the Queen competition agreed, saying “The fairground looked amazing.” McFarland showed five animals during fair week. “It was a little hectic and tiring, but the support we got during the fair was absolutely unbelievable, at the end of the week I felt more than blessed.”
Despite the fair’s successes, Lafferty says there is still much left to do.
Because support for the Junior Fair is such a critical component in producing a successful fair, the renovation of the barns housing the show animals is a top priority for the Senior Fair board.
“The goat barn is in need of some major repairs,” said Brown. “I was told the fair board is reserving funds for the improvements, including a new metal roof.”
Earlier this year the Board was awarded a $100,000 grant for fairground repairs and renovations, but according to Lafferty, future improvements must also continue to rely heavily on funds raised by the annual Grandstand Bonanza Dinner.
“The improvements just keep getting better, but there is still room for more,” says Cluxton, whose four children all participate in Junior Fair events. “This county does a lot to support our youth, I’m already looking forward to next year.”
The future of the Junior Fair program appears to be on a firm footing. This year 40 4-H Clover Bud members from across the county were graduated into the program – replacing those who completed their 4-H careers in 2016.
Among those departing the Junior Fair ranks are the 2016 4-H scholarship winners: Jacob Miley, 18, from West Union High School, Karlie Harper, 18, from Manchester High School, Morgan Grooms, 18, from West Union High School and the OVCTC, Jennah Wright, 18, from North Adams High School, and Kyle Boerger, 18, from North Adams High School.
The 2016 Clover Bud graduates are: Jaylyn Banks, Nicholas Bauer, Emmalee Brammer, Bria Brown, Raylee Brummett, Kirsten Burns, Joey Cluxton, Ivan Cole, Kensley Cornette, Elijah Crabtree, Kennedi Dotson, Diesel Ferguson, Carsen Francis, Chase Francis, Korey Gray, Vivian Grimes, Kyler Grooms, Beau Hesler, Hannah Hesler, Traevyn Hilderbrand, James Makenah, Charles Kabler, Nevaeh Malone, Alyson McCann, Nina McCann, Michael Keygan, Toryn Palmer, Isaiah Patton, Natalie Ragan, Dakota Richmond, Allie Roush, Timothy Russell, Calab Shelton, Jedidiah Shivener, Wyatt Smart, Emily Stapleton, Kenidee Turner, Julia Wagner, Sydney Ward, and Aron McNeilan.