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Barbwire: The County Fair
By Barb Lumley

     Evidently Mother Nature has had a hole in her bucket this past week, as the more rain she brought on to try to fill it, the more escaped and flooded our fields and streams.  The people involved with our county fair this week are hoping a patch has been applied and that it will be a pleasant week for all the activities.  This week marks the 171st   Carroll County Fair and will create memories for those involved just as it has every year since its beginning.  The hardworking and outstanding youth involved will tuck them away and bring them back many times over in the years that follow.  The fair is a special time and place for 4-H members, F.F.A. members and all the other youth involved.  There will be memories of blue ribbons, championship banners, special show winning animals, and especially of friends made and special people met along the way.
     While time has dimmed a few of the memories of my 4-H years, many are as vivid in my memory as when they happened.  Early each morning of the fair my Mom would drive me to the fairgrounds and drop me off so I could feed and care for my 4-H dairy projects.  As I made my way to the 4-H dairy barn I would pass the entrance to the open class sheep barn.  Every morning I was greeted with, “Good morning, Sunshine”.  There sitting in his favorite chair that went with him to every fair and smoking his pipe was John Preston.  Mr. Preston and his son, Art, were well known sheep breeders, who traveled to many fairs and won numerous awards and prizes with their sheep.  I received that special greeting and we exchanged a few words every morning.  It is one of the special things never forgotten. 
     There were numerous other gentlemen who always exhibited their livestock at the fair.  They were highly respected and outstanding breeders of the livestock they showed.  4-Hers like me always referred to them as “Mister”.  There was Mr. Cable from Stark County, who was well known for both his pigs and sheep.  Mr. Henderson brought a beautiful show string of   Shorthorn beef cattle.  Mr. Kahler exhibited an outstanding group of Registered Holsteins and was also from Stark County.  He would tell interesting stories of traveling to the fairs with his show string on the train.  These are just a few of the many exhibitors who traveled from fair to fair in those days to advertise their livestock and hopefully make some sales.
     In those days the fair was held in September and you couldn’t be sure what the weather would be.  It could be a very nice day one day and snowing the next!  Youth had to get permission to miss school fair week so they could show their projects and that was sometimes difficult.  Often students had to complete all their assignments and homework and turn it in before fair week.  There was one year that a group of Ayrshires became sick with shipping fever and all the livestock in that building had to remain for several days after the fair ended.  The changing of the Carroll County Fair to a week in July was welcomed by most people who participated in it.
     The sulky races were a favorite part of the fair years ago and the race horse barn was always full.  There was always a parade in front of the grandstand on Saturday.  There would be bands from all the high schools in the county.  Open class exhibitors were required to participate with the livestock they could lead, each 4-H club paraded their livestock projects as a group, as did F.F. A. members.  Car dealers and machinery dealers who had displays on the grounds took part.  There were floats prepared by different organizations and more.  There were horse pulling contests and tractor pulling.  The Saturday evening entertainment was usually a popular country singer and his band or a well-known group of entertainers.  The Exhibit Hall was filled with interesting things to see, including Grange booths, 4-H Club booths,  canned goods, baked goods, vegetables, booths with items made by the school children, all those things and more.

     Not only is the Carroll County Fair happening this week, so are county fairs all over our country.  There will be many things for people to enjoy and to create memories at every one of them.  County fairs are not just amusement rides, French fries and cotton candy!  They are so much more!  They are special times, special friends and special memories that will last a lifetime!