As the Fulton County Fair nears, Fair Board members, auxiliary, and volunteers have been busy at work adapting and planning the 163rd Fulton County Fair which will take place Sept. 4-10. While this is the normal timeframe of the Fair, the Fair itself will be quite different.
The 2020 Fair is scaled back to a Junior Fair only.
The Junior Fair will be open to youth who have an animal project and their immediate family. To gain access into the Fair a person must have a wrist band, which have been allocated out to Jr. Fair participants, predetermined volunteers, and staff.
“When we held our board meeting back on June 16, we weighed the pros and cons of moving forward with a Fair, and what it would take to make it happen,” said Dennis Wyse, Fair Board President. “As one of the largest fairs in Ohio and largest events in northwest Ohio, we knew we would not be able to host 325,000+ fairgoers like we did back in 2019. Knowing this, we focused in on our youth and keeping the heritage of agriculture moving forward through the next generation. The decision was made to hold a Junior Fair only. And, as it turned out that was a good decision based on the fact the Governor announced that fairs starting on or after July 31 were to be a Junior Fair only. We were fortunate we were already on this path.”
There have been a lot of new discoveries and adapting this year. The input and guidance of the Fulton County Health Department, County Commissioners, and Sheriff’s Department have been instrumental in devising a plan and schedule. The Board is also working closely with the Ohio State University Extension in Fulton County, Jr. Fair Board, and Livestock Committee to offer the safest and best experience possible.
Junior Fair advisors including 4-H advisors and agricultural education teachers have been heroes. They’ve had to change how they conduct their club meetings, keeping the youth encouraged and on track with new guidelines.
“I’ve been pleased with how our community has come together to make this happen for our youth. In some cases, putting this Fair on has been more of a challenge than years passed,” Wyse said. “But folks have been willing to try new things, work together, and figure things out. When you share a common goal and have such determination, things work out.”
There will be 5 days of livestock judging starting on Friday and concluding on Tuesday. Animals will be checked-in the morning of judging and released that same day. The exception to this is the horses, ponies, and donkeys on the north end.
There will be 3 days of equine judging starting Saturday morning and concluding Monday afternoon with Versatility. On Saturday, Sept. 5 the Junior Fair King and Queen will be announced at 6 p.m. A small crowning ceremony will take place in Spangler Arena.
Harness Horse racing will also take place on Saturday, Sept. 5 and Tuesday, Sept. 8 with races run without spectators.
An online Junior Fair Showcase will be something new this year. Hosted on the Fair’s website (FultonCountyFair.com), the showcase will provide a listing of Junior Fair participants and their projects.
Each club will have their own page, and those who submitted photos will have a video of their members and projects. Videos of the 10 & 11 year 4-H members and 4-H Royalty are also part of the showcase.
The Junior Fair Showcase is scheduled to be live at the end of August.
Another new feature of the 2020 Junior Fair is live streaming of the judging taking place during the Fair.
“Showing at the Fair is a family event; we want those who are interested to have access to watch and support the youth. We are planning to live stream on Facebook, and possibly some other outlets,” Wyse said. A full schedule of the live streaming will be available on the Fair’s website.
There will be three primary Facebook pages used for the streaming: Fulton County Fair; Ohio State University Extension-Fulton County; and Fulton County Saddle Club. In addition to the judging, the livestock sale will be streamed live. The sale and all bids will be held in person. For small animals it will be Wednesday, Sept. 9 starting at 6 p.m. and large animals will be Thursday, Sept. 10 starting at 9 a.m.
“Our livestock sale is a buyer contribution sale; anyone can participate,” stated Wyse. “This is another area our community steps up to the plate. These young kids have been working really hard all year, they’ve moved forward with their projects and the sale is just one more way to show our support.”
In the buyer contribution sale, the bidding starts at $0, and the bidding at any time only reflects the contributions of the bidders. This format is clearer for both the youth and the buyers. People interested in participating in the live auction will need to bring an authorized auction letter to the gate for admission. This is in lieu of a wristband. While all bidding will happen in person, those wanting to support the youth but not wanting to come on grounds can opt to contribute to the youth via “add-ons”.
More information regarding the Livestock Sale, Add-Ons, and the Auction Letter can be found on the Fair’s website.
In 2020, the number of youth participating in the Fair is down slightly from 2019. Overall, in 2019 the number of youth who participated in Junior Fair was approximately 1,000; in 2020 it’s around 850. In 2020 there are 2,110 Junior Fair livestock entries and 556 youth who entered. In 2019 there were 2,504 Junior Fair livestock entries and 675 youth entered to participate in the livestock portion of Junior Fair.
“Even with all the changes and new ways of doing things, it’s all coming together,” said Wyse. “I know the youth are excited to come to the Fair and show their animal, they’ve had to adjust to a variety of new things as well. Everyone is making the best of the current circumstances. And, we’re all looking forward to a full Fair in 2021.”