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The Ohio State Fair makes its return to Columbus after a two-year hiatus

The Ohio State Fair has been around for over 150 years, earning the reputation as one of the largest annual state fairs in the United States. After the pandemic prevented the fair from happening for the past two years, Ohio governor Mike DeWine announced it would make its return to the masses from July 27 to August 7.

According to the Ohio State Fair website, the Ohio Legislature created the 53-member Board of Agriculture in 1846. A movement to create a district fair, one of their first acts, resulted in the District Fair at Wilmington the following year and the 1848 District Fair at Xenia. Due to the success from each event, the board’s mission was to establish a state fair.

Due to an outbreak of Asiatic cholera in 1849, the first Ohio State Fair, originally planned for September of 1849, was rescheduled a year later. The 1850 fair was located at Camp Washington, two miles east of downtown Cincinnati, from Oct. 2 to Oct. 4. The site was only eight to 10 acres of grass slopes, shade trees and various tents, all enclosed by a 10-foot high board fence.

At the time, cash premiums at the first Ohio State Fair did not exceed $20, and the public was only allowed admittance on the second and third days—the first day was meant for setup and judging. Admission was only 20 cents, and attendance was estimated at 25,000 to 30,000 people.

Forty years after the creation of Ohio’s Board of Agriculture, the fair moved to its current site, the Ohio Expo Center which spans 360 acres. 

Before the pandemic, The Ohio State Fair has only been canceled a few times including from 1942-1945 when the war department used the grounds and buildings for handling equipment and airplane parts.

Luckily, the two-year hiatus did not stop Ohioans from attending one of the biggest events of the summer, excitement clearly evident in faces from all ages who entered its gates and ventured into the variety of attractions.

“I really like that the fair is open after two years because it just gives everybody in Ohio something to do while they’re at home being safe from Covid,” Will Miller, a 15-year-old fairgoer, from Westerville, Ohio, said. “I definitely think it’s awesome.”

From camel rides to a giant ferris wheel to performances by singers such as Nelly and Scotty McCreery, the Ohio State Fair had a lot in store for guests. Animals were another main attraction that pulled Ohio fair-goers in, especially the baby cow exhibit.

Workers and volunteers, including Ohio State University students, strived to bring back the agricultural aspects to the fair, helping farm animals become readjusted to the space. 

“Having all these people back on the fairgrounds is just an experience that we’ve all been missing,” Faith Hagelberger, a senior studying animal sciences at Ohio State University, said. “It’s nice to see all the barns full again and everyone seeming to enjoy themselves, and educating people on agriculture. Even though the fair has been open, agriculture has still been here, so just to have visitors in … it’s been wonderful.”

With tasty treats such as fried Oreos, funnel cake and more over-the-top creations like fried cheese on a stick and foot-long corn dogs, attendees had a multitude of options to choose from at the event for their lunch, dinner or even just a snack.

For food vendors, the return of the fair has also been long awaited, with workers expressing their excitement to see customers again and a slow return to normalcy.

“This trailer has been here for 23 years, so having two years off was not a good thing,” Christy McDivitt, a retired mother working with Inky Dinky Donuts, said. “It’s good to be back, and we’re seeing a lot of people come back that are saying, ‘Oh, I’m so glad you’re back! We missed you! We missed you,’ so it’s good. We like it.”

Walking around the fairgrounds, fairgoers also noticed the vast array of rides, including a giant slide and a tilt-a-whirl, as well as classic fair games such as Whac-A-Mole and Ring Toss stations. The Ohio State Fair had something fun for everyone.

Ending Aug. 7, attendees still have time to squeeze in the fair last minute. Tickets are $10 for adults and $8 for children. General parking is also free. 


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