Earl’s note: Here is another in a short series about things to do with kids. Today, we go to the Ohio County Country Fair. This year’s fair is set for Oct. 4-6.
The refreshing autumn breeze carries the aroma of fresh popcorn mixed with the smell of steaks cooking on the grill and of the food from the Oglebay tent and the 4-H kitchen. Sounds of children laughing and people talking mingle with the putt-putt of the tractor grinding cornmeal and the ping, ping, ping of the blacksmith’s hammer. Everywhere you look, you see fun things happening because you are at the Ohio County Country Fair.
This year, the fair takes place on Oct. 4-6, at Site 1 at Oglebay Park. As always, admission is free, and there are lots of things to do and see.
This story begins with a quick tour of the fairgrounds. Let’s start by entering the fairgrounds from the parking lot above the Good Zoo. The tent facing that parking lot contains Oglebay Park’s food concession. The folks in the Oglebay tent are always friendly, and the food is great, but it is early, so we walk past that tent on the right-hand side above the parking lot. On that side and just beyond the Oglebay tent, we encounter the main exhibit tent. As you enter the main exhibit tent, you pass the beekeeper display where you can watch the bees at work in the observation hive, or you can purchase honey and other goodies. Tables around the perimeter of the tent hold a variety of informative and fun displays.
The racks in the center of the tent hold all kinds of things that folks have brought as fair entries to be judged. The baked goods always catch our interest because those are auctioned off on Saturday and Sunday to support the Edgar Hooper Memorial Scholarship.
While you are in the big tent, stop by the quilting exhibit and say hi to Nancy Woods. Near her exhibit, you might also see Tammy Bonar from the Ohio County Solid Waste Authority.
The Warwood Farmers Market table is just a couple of tables away from Nancy’s Quilting demonstration.
At the end of the big tent, you will notice an open area where the opening ceremonies and the baked goods auction take place.
Just outside the big tent toward the parking lot, you will see a trailer with a large open window. That trailer functions as the headquarters for the fair.
On the opposite side of the fairgrounds, you will find the 4-H tent near the Oglebay food tent. Inside the 4-H tent, you can check out the variety of projects that the young 4-H members have completed this year.
Your young children or grandchildren can take advantage of the free shopping for kids event housed in the 4-H tent. The folks there provide each child with a shopping bag and guide them as they “shop” for healthy fresh fruits and vegetables, which they get to take home with them.
After you leave the 4-H tent, you will pass an open area where an antique tractor belted to an antique mill will be grinding corn into cornmeal. We always pick up a couple of bags of cornmeal to take home. When we get home, we put each of the paper bags of cornmeal into a Ziploc and place it into the freezer to keep the cornmeal fresh. The Ohio County Country Fair cornmeal makes great cornbread and cornmeal pancakes. Just click this link if you would like to try my recipes for country cornbread, johnnycakes or cornmeal mush.
After the children interact with the farm animals, make sure they stop by the handwashing station just outside the tent and scrub their hands to protect themselves and the animals.
The blacksmith is located under the shade trees near the painting area. Kids of all ages enjoy watching a blacksmith hammer on hot steel, but you must stay a few feet away to avoid the hot sparks! While you are on that side of the fairgrounds, check out the nearby exhibit of antique farm equipment.
After church on Sunday, our family stops by the 4-H food concession for a soup and sandwich lunch.
After you have admired the Belgians, head on down to Camp Russel. Enter the large dining hall building on the left via the door on the side toward the athletic field.
Inside the dining hall building, you will find the quilt exhibit. Because my mother spent many hours sewing quilt tops, the quilt exhibit is one of my favorites. The art of quilting reaches far into the traditional lifestyle of our nation’s early settlers.
Back then, women would save scraps of cloth and then meticulously stitch them together to make blankets and clothing. We have several quilts made by my mother, and we have a blanket that my wife’s mother made by sewing together scraps of corduroy. Every time I visit the quilt exhibit, I think of Dolly Parton’s song, “Coat of Many Colors.”
When you exit the dining hall, walk out onto the concrete platform overlooking the athletic field. From that vantage point, you have a great view of the Pony Pullers competition taking place on the field. Don’t expect to see any whips. As I watched them last year, it was clear that the horses were top athletes who were really into the competition. I watched as the owners worked to hold back the teams until the clank of the hitch hooking to the sled made that impossible. As soon as the horses heard that sound, they lunged into the pull with all of their might until the drivers ordered them to stop. Then, they backed up slightly to be unhooked from the sled before they walked calmly off of the field.
That completes our tour of the fairgrounds. For information about this year’s fair, visit the Ohio County Country Fair website. Scroll down and click on each day to see the calendar of events for that day. Start your Ohio County Country Fair experience by attending the Queen contest on Thursday, Oct. 3. The event begins with a meet and greet at 5 p.m. followed by the pageant at 6 p.m. Be sure to join the West Liberty Christian Church for church services at 11 a.m. at the Levenson Shelter on Sunday.
Don’t forget the two baked goods auctions in the main tent at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 5, or Sunday, Oct. 6. All of the proceeds from the baked goods auction provide funding for the Edgar Hooper Memorial Scholarship.
I will see you at the fair!
• Earl Nicodemus is retired after 40 years as a professor of Instructional Technology at West Liberty University. He helped to form the West Liberty Historical Society, and he and his family maintained the historic West Liberty Cemetery from 1985 to 2016. In 2016, Earl was named as a West Virginia History Hero. His other interests include gardening and fishing.