By Patricia Beech
The Adams County Fair opened Sunday, July 8 with record crowds and record season-pass sales despite the hot, muggy weather that settled over the area this week.
While “Country Days and Carnival Nights” may be the theme that best describes the energy of the county’s 127th fair, the spirit of the 2018 event is best expressed by the unity and inclusion promoted by the Junior and Senior Fair Board members.
That spirit of inclusion was front-and-center in the Junior Fair Board show ring Monday afternoon for the kickoff of the first annual “Day in the Ring” event – an inclusive competition aimed at providing opportunities for disabled persons to show animals at the fair.
Senior Fair Board President, Liz Lafferty (who is also the Superintendent of the Adams County Board of Developmental Disabilities, and a fervent advocate for the disabled) acted as emcee for the event.
“We’re all about inclusion in Adams County,” she told the crowd gathered in the show ring. “We want everyone with a disability to feel that they are a part of this community.”
Wearing blue jeans and boots with tucked shirts, and accompanied by a 4-H partner, each disabled participant circled the arena demonstrating their show-ring skills – as well as their unbridled joy at being given the opportunity to participate.
Congressman Brad Wenstrup was among the spectators cheering the competitors on. He called the event “a great idea”.
“What I just saw was wonderful,” Wenstrup said when the show concluded. “How can anyone not feel joy watching these kids and adults here today do something they’ve never done before?”
Members of the Tom White family also attended the event.
White, who unexpectedly passed away just days before the 2017 fair was scheduled to open, was posthumously named the 2018 Outstanding Fair Supporter for the work he did to improve the fairgrounds, particularly the popular motocross track, which has been renamed the Tom White Memorial Complex.
Serving as Grand Marshal, White’s five surviving brothers and other extended family members led the annual Fair Parade procession from Main Street in West Union to the fairgrounds on Boyd Avenue where Opening Day ceremonies were emceed by Don Bowles of C103 Radio in West Union.
The Junior Fair Board, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, recognized the contributions of founding member, Phil Rhonemus during the opening ceremony.
Junior Fair Board President, Dalton Black said that Rhonemus was a “key factor in creating the Junior Fair Board in 1968”.
“We wanted to give the award to someone who has gone over and above for the 4-H program in our county,” he said. “The entire fair would be completely different without Phil’s efforts and the other nine people who helped to create the Junior Fair Board.”
The Junior Fair Board also chose Bill Wickerham from Adams Soil and Water as the 2018 Adams County Fair VIP.
“Bill is just one of those people you can call on for help with kids,” said Black. “When Ohio Valley FFA did Kindergarten Ag Day this year he was one of the first people I called because he’s so good with kids and he’s one of the biggest supporters of 4-H that we have in this county.”
Another 4-H supporter, Dr. Darin Stanfield was presented the 2018 “Friend of 4-H” award.
Following the Opening Ceremony, Carlie Cluxton, a junior at Peebles High School was chosen as the 2018 Adams County Fair Queen.
She said being chosen was a “dream come true” for her.
“It’s such an honor,” she said after being crowned. “I’m really looking forward to representing our county, and I’m really excited about working all the shows and giving out all the awards.”
The Senior Fair Board has also adopted an inclusive policy allowing different local organizations to earn $1,000 each by taking charge of fair parking for a day.
Alyse Lovejoy-Pettit, a volunteer at the Adams County Pound and Kennel Club, called the parking policy a “great opportunity”.
According to Pettit, nearly 50 volunteers from as far away as Indiana turned out Monday to help the Kennel Club earn the $1,000 which will be used to build a roof over the Pound’s outdoor kennel.
“We’re so grateful to the Senior Fair Board, and everyone involved with the fair board for allowing the Kennel to participate,” she said. “Not only representing the kennel, but also for allowing us to come out and share our stories and our love for the dogs that are housed in our kennel.”
Commissioner Diane Ward said she believes that providing opportunities that encourage broader community participation has been a contributing factor in the Adams County Fair’s recent renaissance.
“This fair is such a positive force,” she said. “We are a very inclusive county, and I think the people who have stepped up to donate time and money for fairground improvements are a perfect example of that. We want everyone to come out to our fair because it is a big deal here in Adams County, and we’re all very proud of it.”