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Published: Monday, 8/11/2003

Tradition keeps bringing them back

BY ERICA BLAKE
BLADE STAFF WRITER

NAPOLEON - For Todd Reimond and his family, the Henry County Fair is all about tradition.

It's about the food, the entertainment, the ambiance. But mostly, it's an annual opportunity for Mr. Reimond to spend a week with his family.

Though the tradition began when he was a little boy only about three decades ago, the fair itself has been entertaining Henry County families and guests for 150 years.

Red, white, and blue adorned the grandstands, booths, and even the manes and tails of competing horses as Henry County celebrated the 150th anniversary of its fair and the state's bicentennial.

Pop music competed with screaming amusement riders. The smell of fried elephant ears mixed with the sweetness of cotton candy. The announcer's voice at the grandstand boomed over the braying and neighing of competing donkeys and horses.

Mr. Reimond said it was for all of these things - and the excited look on his son's face - that he took the week off work and made his way from McClure to the fairgrounds with his family.

“I come every year because there's usually something going on,” Mr. Reimond said as his 5-year-old son, Adam, climbed over tractors on display. “I'd say that even though they've made improvements to the grandstands and paved the pathways, why I like it is because everything seems the same.”

Fair organizers expect about 150,000 fairgoers to walk through the gates at the week-long event. Now in its fourth day, the fair offers all the traditional sites and sounds of county fairs, plus a little something extra to celebrate its birthday.

Tomorrow, organizers have planned the casting of a bicentennial bell, which then will be broken out of its mold and rung for the first time the next day.

“It will be guarded all night long so no one touches it, and then we'll have the ceremony the next day,” said Janis Parker, treasurer of the fair board.

The fair officially closes Thursday night.

“By the time this is over, we'll feel as if we've been here 150 years,” she laughed.

Yesterday's schedule was dominated by the draft horse competition, of which the highest honor of Best of Show was awarded to Jessica, a 5-year-old Percheron mare. Jessica's owners, Kendra and Steve Allen of Holgate, are regular attendees at the fair. Yesterday, surrounded by six of her Percheron horses and a young donkey, Frances, Mrs. Allen said coming to the fair each year is like having a big party with friends.

“Everybody comes to the county fair, whether you're interested in the events or not,” she said. “It just seems like people flood to the county fair.”

Rosemary Brubaker of Napoleon admitted the fair does not have the same allure for her as it did when she was a child. At 81, Ms. Brubaker doesn't ride the rides or watch the competitions, but she does return each year to work at local booths and eat a few fair treats.

“It's a nostalgia,” she said. “I've got lots of years to look back on, and I like to watch parents and their children enjoying the fair like I did.

“I think it's great because so many things don't last and not only has this lasted, it just keeps on getting better,” she said.



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