Ohio State Fair brings fun, food

The 161st state fair opens its 12-day run on Wednesday.
MCT Regional News
Jul 21, 2014

Don’t tell the racing pigs, but perhaps the most-anticipated concession stand at this year’s Ohio State Fair will feature only one product: bacon.

Bacon-on-a-stick, bacon popcorn, bacon burgers — all will be available at Bubba’s Bacon, a vendor that has had just about every fair employee’s mouth watering for months.

Those are far from the only new delights awaiting visitors when the 161st state fair opens its 12-day run on Wednesday at the Ohio Expo Center on the North Side.

“I want a great fair, and I think we’re going to have it,” fair manager Virgil Strickler said. “ I’m praying for good weather.”

Unlike years when bad weather could seem to threaten its future, the fair is in good financial shape this year,

finance director Doug Smalley said. Its $3 million balance is the best he has seen in his 11 years at the fairgrounds; it’s a dramatic turnaround from the $300,000 on hand in his first year.

That has allowed the fair to keep its ticket and parking prices and the quality of its entertainment the same as last year’s, Smalley said.

In their first fair appearance, trained bears will entertain three times a day as part of Welde’s Big Bear Show, presented by the third generation of Welde family members.

Back after an absence of a few years are the Budweiser Clydesdales, a breed of draft horses from Scotland that has been synonymous with Anheuser-Busch for more than 80 years. The huge animals and their gear will be on display throughout the fair in their quarters north of the 17th Avenue entrance to the fairgrounds.

The Clydesdales also will march as a hitch pulling a wagon most days in the fair’s daily afternoon parade.

New strolling entertainers include a clown band, a Cleveland polka band known as the Hobos, a comic magician and a juggler.

Twenty trees have been added to the fairgrounds, part of an ongoing effort that started last year to provide more shade amid the blacktop.

Another Smokey Bear — this one 100 feet tall — will join the popular talking Smokey (14 1/2 feet tall) in honor of the ad campaign’s 70th anniversary. The hot-air balloon will float over the Natural Resources Park area of the fairgrounds from 9 to 11 a.m. during the first two days of the fair.

The newest fair contest is the Old Familiar Beard and Mustache Competition. Beards will battle in seven categories, and mustaches will compete in three, at noon on July 28.

Senior citizens will have their own discount day this year: $4 admission on July 29 for anyone 60 or older. Special events are planned throughout the grounds.

For the fourth year, Ohio fourth-graders and a chaperone can get in free by presenting a 2014 fourth-grade report card at the gate any day.

Nearly 200 food vendors will join the bacon wagon to fill up fairgoers’ stomachs with tiny doughnuts, grilled corn, anything-you-want-on-a-stick and lemon shake-ups.

Standard attractions are returning, including the butter cow, racing pigs, the midway, the SkyGlider and, of course, the animals, with cows, hogs, sheep, chickens, horses and rabbits all adding to the cacophony on the grounds.

Fewer oinks will be heard because some farmers are keeping their hogs at home to prevent the spread of the porcine epidemic diarrhea virus. The disease, which has been sweeping the country for more than a year, kills baby pigs but isn’t a concern for humans and doesn’t affect pork-meat safety.

Good news for Bubba’s Bacon.

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By Kathy Lynn Gray - The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio (MCT)

©2014 The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio)

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