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Published: Thursday, 5/8/2008

Days of summer fun are just around the corner

BY JANET ROMAKER
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Kory Gottfried tends  to his dairy steer at the Wood County Fair. Kory Gottfried tends to his dairy steer at the Wood County Fair.
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Fast approaching ... the county fair season.

Yum. Dozens of days of delicious summer fun. Slurp a milk shake, tuck into a tenderloin sandwich, cozy up to a corn dog.

Midway screams, fields of dreams, old-time harvesting machines. Horseshoes clanking, goats racing, combines clashing.

Check out fancy feathered fowl and the whopper hoppers. Find out where milk comes from (cows, not plastic cartons). Look over the llamas (who might be wearing pajamas).

A reminder. Just as you enter a county fairgrounds, the sensory delight grips you in a down-home hug. Hold on. It s going to be a great big wonderful ride.

Here, in no particular order, are 10 Toledo-area counties with a flair for the fair.

Canning samples at the Hillsdale County Fair. Canning samples at the Hillsdale County Fair.
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• First out of the chute: You gotta love a fair when it springs up just as summer starts. Paulding County s fair kicks off June 17 and runs through June 21, and we do mean run. It s a mad dash to get everything squeezed into those all-too-brief days, considering that fan favorites are packed into the schedule along with newer additions, such as the Paulding County Idol contest. Interested in some quirkier competition? Try your luck at tossing fry pans or spitting watermelon seeds. Or perhaps bubble-gum blowing is more your sticky style.

• Juicy roots: Marching bands, floats, vintage vehicles, and other units typically are featured each year in the Tomato Festival Parade that is as much of a Henry County Fair tradition as smash em up demolition derbies and award-winning, mouth-watering baked goods. The midway at the 155th annual Henry County Fair will be packed with people, including residents from Colton, Malinta, McClure, and other Henry County communities people whose roots are linked not only to tomatoes, but to corn, wheat, soybeans, and other crops grown on fertile farm fields.

• Star-studded grandstand shows: Billed as the Top of Ohio, the Fulton County Fair has earned its place in the spotlight as one of the all-time best county fairs in the state, and it s known far and wide for its grandstand shows. This year, the stage will sizzle with summer songs when the Beach Boys perform.

A combine demolition derby swings into gear at the 2007 Lucas County Fair. A combine demolition derby swings into gear at the 2007 Lucas County Fair.
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• All mapped out: Walk along Wool Way, mosey down Cattle Drive, or meander over to Grandstand Boulevard at the Wood County Fair, a blue-ribbon annual event in Bowling Green, featuring glistening jars of canned goods, eye-catching needlework, and crowd-pleasing floral arrangements. It s a great place to shuck some salty peanuts, sample pale pink clouds of cotton candy, and savor the good earth and the personality of its people.

• City meets country: As it marks its 150th anniversary, the Lucas County Fair strives to keep agriculture as a primary focus, celebrating its rich Ohio heritage. In addition to the farm connection, carnival rides continue to provide thrills, frosty cups of lemonade the chills, and hand-crafted, home-grown exhibits add the always-popular frills.

• High and dry: Fittingly the 153rd Putnam County Fair sets sail with a flood of fun this year. During the Great Flood of 2007, the fairgrounds served as high ground for various flood-relief efforts. The location, and a wave of willing volunteers, facilitated FEMA, pet rescue, county office relocation, business assistance, private citizen needs, and debris stockpiling. Fair publicity is far from all wet as it touts the attractions and makes its promotion: Your fair stepped up to help all when they were down. Now it s time for a little more flood relief fair fun!

A horse show at the Paulding County Fair. A horse show at the Paulding County Fair.
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• Rockin in Lyma: OK, it s Lima, but at the Allen County Fair, taking top billing this year will be the popular rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd. Lyke, cool.

• Fair where? The Monroe County Fair hopscotched the region before settling into its current digs. One of the earliest locations was near the Ohio-Michigan line south of Lambertville. Fairs at the turn of the century were held in Dundee. In 1938, the fair was staked out at the Farmers Market building on East Willow Street in Monroe. The following year, it was held at the Ilgenfritz Nursery cellars on East Front Street where it remained through World War II. In 1947, it was relocated to the Navarre Airport on North Dixie Highway. That same year, $40,000 was appropriated for its permanent fair site at South Custer and Raisinville roads.

• Sure-fire slogan: See the rest then see the best boasts the Hancock County Fair. Since its start in 1852, the Hancock County Fair has been steeped in tradition and excellence. Fair organizers say that the event represents the best in the county from the youth entries and open-class exhibits to the vast entertainment that brings Findlay and Hancock County residents together in the spirit of cooperation and community.

• A fitting finale: A hint of autumn tinges the night air at the Hillsdale County Fair. The event organizers take pride in presenting one of the best fairs in the Tri-State area. Traditionally for many Toledo-area residents, the Hillsdale event marks the end of the fair season.

Contact Janet Romaker at: jromaker@theblade.com or 419-724-6006.



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