Thursday, August 3, 2017
Off to the Ohio State Fair
Katja’s recollection is that we last went to the Ohio State Fair in Columbus sometime before our son J’s birth in 1969. I vaguely thought we might have gone there when J was about 10 or 12, but I was unsure. Whatever the case, forty or fifty years is much too long to wait between state fair outings. I myself love county and state fairs. Some of my most exciting childhood memories are going to the U.P. State Fair in Escanaba with my family. Katja, J, and I went to the Hamilton County Fair in Carthage for many years, and we always were excited to be frightened by Zambora the Gorilla Girl. Columbus is further away from Cincinnati — a hundred miles — but definitely worth the trip.
The Ohio State Fair is one of the nation’s largest. It lasts for twelve days in late July and early August and attracts close to a million visitors each year. The first Ohio State Fair was held in Camp Washington outside Cincinnati in 1850 and had about 25,000 attendees in its two-day run. Then it changed locations every year (e.g., Sandusky, Zanesville, Toledo, Cleveland) until it moved permanently to Columbus in 1874. It’s been at the Ohio Expo Center and State Fairgrounds since 1886.
We arrived about 3 p.m. on Tuesday and were pleasantly surprised that tickets were only $4 on Senior Day. We stopped first at Cardinal Hall with all of its arts and crafts. The youth art exhibition by elementary, middle school, and high school students was inspiring. There were wonderful fantasy creations by first graders, and the high school students’ works were near-professional quality. In addition, there were quilts, leather-working and woodworking, model railroad trains, knitting and sewing, fudge brownies, and even a competition for the world’s ugliest cake.
We made our way down Food Highway where Katja got a squeezed lemonade. I will guess that there were at least a hundred food vendors, all of them competing to see who could be the most harmful to Ohioans’ health. Katja and I decided that there wasn’t a single place that catered to good nutrition. It didn’t matter since they all seemed to be doing a good business.
We briefly watched a magician, a comic, a knife-juggler, and a rock band. Some of the events were of particular interest to Katja, and I would wander off to take a few photos. She always likes the cooking demonstrations, and, along with several hundred other audience members, she enjoyed the 4-H fashion review with 8- to 12-year-olds modeling outfits that they’d sewn. Katja visited the ring-cleaning booth, had her ring cleaned, and invested $20 in a bottle of their magic formula. We also had free lunch (salad with nuts) at the “Cooking with Peanuts” show.
There were, of course, several animal buildings. We stopped by to see the cows and petted a couple of week-old Holsteins. The Pork building featured Marvelous, the Big Boar, who weighs 1140 pounds and struck me as nearly as large as a cow. While the photo doesn’t do him justice, I think Marvelous must be the largest pig in the world.
We looked forward to the rabbits the most, but were disappointed that it was “Changeover Day” and so there were only a dozen or so rabbits to be admired. Nonetheless, they were all show winners.
The Fine Arts Building, with adult art, photography, and sculpture, offered a massive exhibition with lots of museum-quality work. I was most moved by the Wounded Warriors exhibit which consisted of seven eye-catching wood sculptures of wounded military dogs from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
We were hungry by 6 p.m. and had a Bloomin’ Onion as an appetizer. By the time we finished it we were filled up and decided that it had been our evening meal.
After walking back and forth a couple of times I finally decided to test the guy who guesses ages and weights. I paid him three dollars and was happy when he guessed me to be 8 years younger than my actual age. I thought I was going to get $6 back, but instead I won a small stuffed monkey head which would might be sold at the 99 Cents Store. It was worth it.
On the way out we asked a couple to take our photo, and then we headed for home on I-71, stopping for Dairy Queen sundaes in Wilmington. I’m glad we went to the fair. Despite all these years, I never think much about living in Ohio. It always seems rather bland compared to more exotic places we visit. However, there were so many wonderful and amazing things produced by Ohioans that I found myself experiencing a unfamiliar touch of Buckeye pride. There are a lot of gifted people out there in the hinterlands. I think we’ll come back to the State Fair again next year.