TIFFIN - The open-air livestock barn at the Seneca County fair wasn't just a place to watch animal exhibits yesterday.
It was a refuge from the intense heat and humidity that blanketed the fairgrounds.
On the fair's first full day, dozens of onlookers perched on wooden bleachers, enjoying the afternoon Jersey cow judging, cold drinks, and shade.
Jane Cole of Jenera, Ohio, sat on the top row with her daughter, Katie, 11, watching a line of junior yearling heifers parade around the pen below.
Mrs. Cole said her son, James, 23, was showing cows for the Spahr Jersey Farm near Findlay.
“We're here to support him today - in the heat of the summer,” Mrs. Cole said, laughing. “But that's OK. There's a good breeze in here, and we're protected from the sun.”
As she spoke, Mrs. Cole sipped from a straw poking out of a tall Styrofoam cup, as did Katie. “Milkshakes - can't beat 'em,” she said. “Very good!”
Some visitors ventured outside only to fetch cold drinks from the fair's refreshment stands.
“It is extremely hot. That's why we're having snow cones,” said Laurie Spahr, as she and her 3-year-old daughter, Tristen, hurried toward the livestock barn. Mrs. Spahr held a frozen drink in each hand as Tristen dug into her icy treat with a red straw.
Stepping into the barn, Mrs. Spahr handed her husband, Brian, a cherry snow cone, keeping a large blueberry cone for herself.
“This open building is pretty decent,” Mr. Spahr said, standing on a bed of hay next to his chestnut-colored cows.
The Spahrs, who have about 700 Jersey cows on their dairy farm, said they brought about 15 to show at a district competition.
Mr. Spahr, 35, said he liked the Seneca County fair because he could show his cows without being required to keep them there all week, as at many other fairs.
“We'll end up getting $25 a head for being here,” he said. “But the event is more about family. Some of these people have been coming here since I was 4.”
Jersey cows, Mr. Spahr explained, produce less milk than other cows, but their milk contains more milk fat - about 5 percent - than other breeds.
“Mostly your Jersey milk's going to be made into cheese, ice cream, butter,” he said.
“The good things in life,” Mrs. Spahr chimed in.
Despite the heat, food was on the minds of other fairgoers too.
Marcia Shockley of Tiffin, a fair volunteer, her daughter, Steffi, 10, and friend Brittney Wise, 11, took turns eating thin, ketchup-covered “ribbon fries'' from a red-and-white cardboard tray.
“They literally peel the potatoes right in front of you and then fry them,” Mrs. Shockley said. “This will be their lunch. It's so nutritional. When you're at the fair, you've got to eat fair food.”
As the girls finished eating and ran off, she added, “That's all they're doing is eating junk.”
Dan Stahl, Seneca County's public safety administrator, said the heat hadn't caused anyone to need emergency medical treatment, but EMS crews will be watching carefully today, when senior citizens are admitted free.
Because of heavy electricity use, fair officials reported trouble with a power line that supplies electricity to the livestock barn and a nearby campground. The owners of trailers and RVs in the area were asked about 2:30 p.m. to shut off their air conditioners to allow workers to replace the line with higher-capacity cable.
“Our biggest problem is, everybody's running their air conditioners in these campers, and our lines can't take it,” Jim Hoover, secretary of the Seneca County fair board, said. “We're blowing breakers one right after another.”
Mr. Hoover said the electrical work wouldn't affect the rest of the fairgrounds, including rides and concession stands.
The 159th annual Seneca County fair runs through July 30.