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Pemberville's annual Free Fair to start on Aug. 17

Rides, food, contests, featured

If you plan to donate frogs to the Pemberville Free Fair in time to get a prize, you'd better get hopping.

Prizes will be awarded to people who donate two or more frogs, of acceptable size for jumping, to the frog-contest committee before the fair gets under way Aug. 17.

Pemberville's annual four-day free fair will be jumpin' with more than just frogs.

Amusement rides, food, entertainment, contests, and parades are just a few of the popular attractions at the fair that will be held in the village's Memorial Park near Front Street.

About 30,000 people typically attend the fair, said Scott Sheets of Pemberville, who handles public relations for the event. He also is chairman of the grand parade.

Volunteering to help with the free fair is a Sheets' family tradition, he said; his father Richard Sheets is president of the fair board.

The fair, held for more than 60 years, is known as a free fair because there is no admission charge, Mr. Sheets said.

There is a fee for amusement rides and food, but families can "enjoy all the thrills and ambience without having to pay an admission free," he said, adding that in today's economy, it's quite a feat for a community to host a free fair.

The fair's success is a combination of a lot of hard work and generous people, he said.

Annually, the fair serves as a homecoming with people coming from near and far to attend family get-togethers and reunions, Mr. Sheets said, noting some families each year sit in the same place at the fair. "It certainly is a tradition."

New activities this year include the chance to take part in the painting of a community mural.

Julia Pierce, the fair's chairman of arts and crafts, said a dozen large squares and a dozen small squares on a tarp will be available for people on which to paint designs of their choice. Supplies will be provided; people who want to take part in the mural project are asked to register before the start of the event, scheduled for 1 to 5 p.m. Aug. 18 in front of the American Legion Hall.

Slated for Aug. 17 to Aug. 20, the fair will include a quilt show, a swine scramble, a kids' pedal-tractor pull, a volleyball tournament; pony and horse pulls, a cornhole tournament, a hog roast, fair rides, a kids' zone, a fun run, bingo, band performances, and Pemberville's version of Deal or No Deal.

The grand parade, which steps off at 1 p.m. Aug. 20, usually features 150 units or more: bands, marching units, clowns, antique vehicles, politicians, Mr. Sheets said. "It's a fun parade."

And it is held rain or shine, such as last year when a soaking rain persisted during the 2 1/2-hour parade. Still, people lined three and four deep the entire afternoon. Participants and spectators were wonderful, he said. "There was no thunder or lightning. The show went on."

Now, back to the lily pad, uh, the frog-jumping contest, which will leap off at 3:30 p.m. Aug. 20.

Registration will start at 3 in an area called the Frog Jumping Circle. Contestants (14 and younger) pay a $1 fee each, and from that pool of young people, 32 participants will be selected at random.

"It's a fun event. It has been a tradition for quite a few years," Mr. Sheets said.

All frogs will be supplied by the committee.

For the preliminary heats the committee members will issue a different frog to each contestant. The final two will be able to choose a frog prior to the final "jump-off."

Contestants cannot touch their frogs once the heats begin, but otherwise, they can use their creative skills to get the frogs to jump (frog whisperers, perhaps?).

In each heat, the first frog to cross the outer circle wins.

Frogs remain the property of the committee.

Winners as well as losers will be taken back to ponds or other frog-friendly places and released back into the wild, Mr. Sheets said.

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