WAUSEON — Marking its 157th year, the Fulton County Fair bangs, moos, snorts, growls, thunders, and hums as an annual end-of-summer showcase of rural traditions and new-fangled attractions, top-notched entertainment and family friendly activities.
Known as one of the best fairs in Ohio, the perennially popular event will draw upward of 300,000 people during its weeklong run, beginning today and ending Thursday at the fairgrounds along State Rt. 108 and the Ohio Turnpike north of Wauseon.
Early this week, the buzz had begun. Lookers drove around the fairgrounds, checking out the changing scene as the vendors ready to sell cotton candy, corn dogs, peanuts and popcorn, and other food pulled equipment into place.
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Dennis Wyse, fair board member for four years who is in his second year as fair board president, chuckled that at times, with the ongoing parade of vehicles, it appeared the fair was already under way.
Eager, they are. It’s truly a can’t-wait-til-it-starts county fair. Fulton County attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors because why?
Attention to details, details, details. Coupled with the time and talents donated by hundreds of volunteers. And there’s more: the many exhibitors who compete. And the scream machines, the jam-packed lineup of entertainment, interesting educational programs. Topping it off: ah, that atmosphere. The sights, the sounds, the smells.
Mr. Wyse was in the midst of his fifth week in a row at the fair, bustling nearly 24/7 to make sure all is in place when the fair opens.
“We’ve been setting up the buildings, setting up the pens. Cleaning, we’ve been doing a lot of cleaning,” he said. Crews have barns to disinfect and exhibits and animals to get moved in.
Weather plays a part in the attendance numbers. “Last year we just missed 300,000. We set an all-time record with 298,346. We really had a good year. The weather cooperated a lot,” he said.
Three days before opening day, Jill Stechschulte, Fulton County 4-H extension educator and county extension director, checked off her to-do lists. Even her lists had lists.
For the second year, the fair is partnering with the Four County Career Center’s veterinarian technician program to provide students a chance to get some experience on the other side of the fence, she said.
“They did a great job last year and we have them back again,” she said. Students are assigned shifts in the animal weigh-in process, giving a first look at paperwork, she said.
About 1,040 4-H club members will take part in the fair, she said.
“Fulton County has a very supportive environment for agriculture and is very mindful of the land,” she said.
“I think the kids are raised to care about agriculture and to care about the quality of food, and they are wanting some experience in that.”
The county has 250 volunteer 4-H advisers.
“Their one-on-one relationship keeps the kids coming back,” she said.
Projects keep pace with the interest of kids. “Robotics is up and coming and model rockets, water bottle rockets, and poultry,” she said, noting the increasing interest in poultry is linked to costs. Chickens are less expensive than feeder calf, lamb, steer, or hog projects.
Fulton County is celebrating its 157th fair, but that’s not old in Ohio.
The Great Geauga County Fair is Ohio’s oldest continuous county fair and one of the oldest existing agricultural fairs in the nation, according to its Web site, which which says the fair dates back to 1823.