Welcome to the Ohio County Country Fair! Held in conjunction with Oglebayfest during the first weekend in October every year, the Ohio County Country Fair has become a cherished tradition here in the upper Ohio Valley. For the first time, this year, I had a small part in helping to set up the facilities for the fair. Since I was at the site for most of the week, I took lots of pictures. Here is a glimpse of the fair in pictures starting with the set-up and ending with the baked goods auction!
My job included marking and staking out the locations for the tents. The two largest tents were the livestock tent, which measured 40 feet by 100 feet, and the main exhibit tent, which measured 40 feet by 140 feet.
For many years, Carl Townsend oversaw the setup of the tents. Although I officially took over that job for this year, he was kind enough to be on site every day to keep me company and to answer my questions. Having Carl there made the job much easier. In addition, Carl had provided me with a copy of his map of the fairgrounds showing the locations of the tents. Although she had a bad cold, my wife, Betty, helped to mark and stake out the tent locations on the Sunday afternoon a week before the fair.
On the Monday of fair week, the folks from Wheeling Tent and Canvas arrived to erect the tents. Using our stakes as guides, they started by marking out the locations of the 3-foot long steel tent stakes which they drove into the ground using a jackhammer mounted on a Bobcat.
The huge tent stakes each went through the metal bracket on one of the straps that held up the tent. After driving all of the stakes and attaching the straps, the workers covered the ground with tarps and spread out the tents. They then connected together the sections of the larger tents and erected the side poles attaching the straps to them. They used a set of wheels and the Bobcat to erect the large center poles. After they attached the side curtains, the tents were ready.
The Fair Board also rented tables and chairs from the same company, so their last job before leaving the fairgrounds was to unload those into the tents. It doesn’t sound like much of a job until you realize that they were unloading 118 tables and 207 chairs!
After the big display tent was erected, volunteers went to the West Alexander Fairgrounds to retrieve the risers that were used to hold displays of baked goods, garden produce, etc. The two fairs share the risers. This year, the West Liberty University Baseball Team assisted with carrying the risers.
After the baseball team put the risers into place, other volunteers finished putting them together by attaching boards which joined the sections.
The photo on the left shows the completed display risers while the crew who assembled them takes a much-needed water break.
While the volunteers were preparing the display tent, other volunteers were hard at work setting up other parts of the fairgrounds.
The parade marked the beginning of the Ohio County Country Fair even though the formal opening was after the parade.
If anything makes a parade more fun, it is a horse-drawn wagon. The only thing that could top that is a horse-drawn wagon carrying W.Va. Dairy Princess, Miss Dulcie Hanson from Marshall County! The photo on the right show Nancy Woods of Marshall County. Riding on an antique Farmall M driven by Clyde Reed who lives outside of Moundsville.
Everybody loves antique tractors and farm equipment. We always look forward to seeing them in the parade.
We also look forward to seeing all of the young people at the fair, which includes something for children of all ages. These were actually two different hay wagons. The one on the right was occupied by some of the 4-H members who participated at the fair this year.
The Opening Ceremony
Shortly after the parade, the Opening Ceremonies provided the official launch of the 2018 Ohio County Country Fair.
The Opening Ceremonies began with the entry of the Honor Guard followed by the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag.
The combined bands from Martins Ferry and Cameron High Schools provided the music for the Opening Ceremonies for the Ohio County Country Fair this year.
Longtime Fair Board member, Nancy Weeks, presided at the Opening Ceremonies.
This year, the Fair Board honored three long-time board members for their dedicated service to the fair.
The picture on the left shows Nancy Weeks presenting longtime Fair Board member Bob Duvall with a lifetime membership to the Fair Board in honor of his service. The picture on the right shows Fair Board President Justin Miller presenting longtime Fair Board member Glen Cox with a lifetime membership to the Fair Board in honor of his service.
The photo on the left shows Fair Board President Justin Miller presenting longtime Fair Board member Carl Townsend with a lifetime membership to the Fair Board in honor of his service. I got Carl to pose with his plaque for the photo on the right.
Activities for Children
The Ohio County Country Fair provided an opportunity for the young people who were involved with the 4-H program to present their projects to be exhibited and judged.
These photos show two of the exhibits inside the 4-H tent.
These pictures show some of the 4-H projects brought to be exhibited and judged.
More 4-H projects. Each book and project displayed represented one young person whose life had been touched by the 4-H program.
Another activity inside the 4-H tent was the free shopping spree for kids. Each child was provided with a shopping bag and then given the opportunity to experience free shopping for healthy produce. The electric train display pictured on the right also provided plenty of entertainment for children of all ages!
The picture on the left was taken inside the livestock tent where touching was encouraged. A hand-washing station located just outside the tent ensured that children and animals stayed healthy. Just outside the door on the far end of the livestock tent, children had the opportunity to express their creativity by painting wooden cut-outs of their favorite farm animals.
A hard day of petting livestock and painting worked up a healthy appetite. Fortunately, the 4-H food booth in the shelter had just the right recipe for that appetite. These two pictures show some of the hard-working volunteers who kept us fed.
Another alternative for lunch was to stop by the FFA tent for a steak sandwich. If your sweet tooth was aching, you could medicate it with some ice cream from the Holstein Dairy tent shown on the right.
Other Things to See and Do At the Fair
Since the main tent was only a few steps from the Holstein tent, it was easy to wander through and browse the exhibits while enjoying the ice cream. After learning how pumpkin pies are made, we had the opportunity to stop by and say hi to Nancy Woods and watch her demonstrate quilting. You may recognize Tammy Bonar there with Nancy. Tammy’s Ohio County Solid Waste Authority display was right next to Nancy’s quilting frame.
While you were visiting the display tent, you might have caught a glimpse of Ohio County Cooperative Extension Agent Karen Cox. However, she was very involved in the fair and also had a display in the 4-H tent and the Livestock Tent. The picture on the right shows the display from the Warwood Farmer’s Market.
The large display tent also sheltered displays from a number of fair supporters in addition to a beekeeper, garden produce, home canned foods, and an array of baked goods which were auctioned off to raise money for the Ohio County Country Fair Scholarships.
These are two photos of the baked goods auction. The Fair Board thanks everyone who donated baked goods and everyone who purchased baked goods! All of the money raised by the baked goods auction is used to fund the Ohio County Country Fair Scholarships.
If you were at the fairgrounds on Sunday morning, you were welcome to join the West Liberty Christian Church for morning worship service at the shelter. The picture on the left shows some of the church members before the service started. The young lady giving me the look is my young friend Aubrey. The picture on the right shows minister Dennis Arnold preaching in bib overalls!
As a member of the West Liberty Christian Church, I can tell you that the choir there is exceptional. The two photos above show Hillary Sayre directing the West Liberty Christian Church Choir.
I couldn’t decide which church pictures to include, so here are two more.
After church and lunch, it was only a short walk past the tent holding the team of Belgian Horses to the building holding the Quilt display. My mother worked many hours on piecing together quilts when I was growing up, so visiting the quilt display brought back some fond memories. The quilt in the picture on the left was selected as the best of show.
After visiting the quilt display, I walked out onto the hillside overlooking the Hitch Class show. When I was there, the statewide Pony Pulling Championships were underway. Clearly, those horses enjoyed competing. It looked to me like the drivers had to hold them back, as shown in the picture on the left, while they were hitched to the sled. As soon as they were hooked up, they threw their strength into pulling that sled. There was not a whip in sight and those horses pulled with all of their might until the driver forced them to stop. The photo on the right shows some of that intensity.
The blacksmith was located next to the antique tractor exhibit. There is always something entertaining about watching someone hammering things out of red-hot glowing steel. The antique tractor and hammermill between the 4-H tent and the livestock tent have become a tradition at the fair. We always stop by there and pick up a couple of bags of freshly ground cornmeal which I use to make the old-fashioned cornmeal pancakes that we had growing up back on the farm in central Ohio. We keep the cornmeal in the freezer to keep it fresh and free of bugs. We also love the old-fashioned cornbread and fried cornmeal mush on a cold winter morning. Click this link for Earl’s recipes for traditional country cornbread, cornmeal pancakes (johnnycakes), and cornmeal mush.
Here in the valley, we are fortunate to have so many people who donate their time to the various volunteer fire departments that keep us safe. These two pictures show some of the volunteers from the Valley Grove Volunteer Fire Department who were on site at the fair for the entire weekend. On behalf of the Fair Board and of all of the visitors to the fair, I will end this document by saying thank you for your service to these volunteers and to all of the other first responders here in the valley both paid and volunteer.
(Photos by Earl Nicodemus)
Earl Nicodemus is retired after 40 years of teaching Instructional Technology at West Liberty University. He helped to form the West Liberty Historical Society, and he and his family have taken care of the historic West Liberty Cemetery since 1985. He is particularly interested in folk stories about local historical figures and often gives presentations to community groups.