Wood County Fair

Mass quantities of people, pork & potatoes at fair

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News Feeding, hydrating and entertaining the thousands of visitors at the Wood County Fair is big business. Just ask the vendors at Mike’s Cheese Shack, where they deep fry golden nuggets of cheese from after sunrise to after sundown. The crew planned to fry a couple thousand pounds of cheese this past week at the fair. “This is our second largest fair,” in terms of the mass quantities of cheese curds sold, an employee of the cheese shack said. “People here like cheese curds.” “They like them all day long,” he said, pointing out the marks on his arm from flying grease. And of course, fairgoers need cold beverages to wash down all that deep fried goodness. Many of them go to the lemonade stand located right next to the entrance of the grandstand. “Our lemonade is amazing,” said Danielle Schlageter, who estimated the stand will go through about 40 cases of 140 lemons each this week. Hot weather helps with sales, but business was busy on Monday evening with cooler temperatures. “They come even in the rain,” Schlageter said. There are also all kinds of freebies that fairgoers collect as they traverse the fair. Some items are even useful, like the packets of bug repellent being handed out by Alex Aspacher and Kami Wildman, with the Wood County Health Department. The two estimated they would pass out 300 to 400 packets just on Monday evening. “We’ll be out here a couple hours each day,” Aspacher said. “It’s a conversation starter that allows us to talk to people.” The fair also gives local politicians the opportunity to shake a lot of hands of potential voters. At the Wood County Republican Party’s booth, State Rep. Theresa Gavarone was greeting voters. She estimated that in her first hour at the fair, she had shaken about 50 hands. Kissing babies? That no longer seems to be a big thing for politicians. “I don’t kiss babies – but I love to see the babies,” Gavarone said with a grin. A few booths down, at the Wood County Democratic Party’s stand, Michael Galbraith, a candidate for Congress, said he was getting to meet lots of local citizens. Though some fairgoers swing wide of the political booths, others want a chance to meet candidates on the ballot. “We’re seeing a lot of folks,” Galbraith said, estimating he had shaken about 200 hands in the first 90 minutes. But Galbraith joked that he draws the line at some greetings. “I kiss no dogs,” he said with a smile. The 4-H milkshake booth was busy as usual, cranking out the sweet treats. Last year, the stand sold about 18,000 milkshakes during the week of the fair and the tractor pull combined. The big seller during the fair is chocolate, but strawberry surpasses that at the tractor pull,…

Kids beef up their skills raising livestock for county fair

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Months of wrangling hefty cows, getting up for early morning swine feedings, and coaxing obstinate goats may pay off this week for kids showing their livestock at the Wood County Fair this week. As adults were setting up carnival rides and food stands Sunday in the front of the Wood County Fairgrounds, kids were getting their livestock ready to show. Kassie Fintel, 17, has been building a relationship with Tot, an 800-pound beef feeder, since February to prepare him for the fair. Basically, it comes down to teaching some manners to Tot (whose twin is of course named Tater). “It’s so much work,” said Fintel, who goes to Bowling Green High School. “It’s countless hours every summer.” In addition to the feeding and cleaning of stalls, Fintel spent quite a bit of time walking Tot. “We have to walk them or they won’t be broken for the fair,” she said as she nudged Tot into position. During judging, Tot will be asked to show that he can raise his feet when tapped with a stick, set his feet square, stand quietly in the ring, and walk without running. “Basically, manners,” Fintel said. At that moment, Tot decided to ignore Fintel and instead chew on a ribbon tacked to the fair pen. “I love his personality,” Fintel said. “He’s such a little dog basically. He doesn’t realize how big he is.” Fintel also shows her quarter horse, Tuck, at the fair. That is less of a challenge since she and Tuck have been partners for years. “My horse has been trained, and we know what we’re doing,” Fintel said. At the barn next door, goats were being weighed in for the week. Though many of the animals showed reluctance to comply with their owners’ wishes, the goats clearly won the prize for being the most ornery. Mason Roe, 11, of Weston, was waiting with his goats, Trixie and Scarlett – neither who were particular about the spellings of their names. “They’re funny,” Roe said. “They walk and jump.” Like the other kids at the fair, Roe has spent months feeding, cleaning, shaving and walking his goats. He found that the pair had a fondness for eating corn. However, since goats bloat up with too much corn, he usually feeds Trixie and Scarlett specialty feed and hay. His goats weighed in at 102 and 80 pounds – making that training component so very important. “I hope they don’t fight with me,” while being shown, Roe said. In the rabbit and poultry barn, Emma Meek, 12, of Grand Rapids, and Addysen Limes, 12, of Weston, talked about their labor of love with livestock. “It’s a lot of commitment,” said Limes, who has meat chickens, pullets and market ducks at the fair. Meek has swine and beef cattle. “Mine is easier…

Wood County Fair making history with $2.2M building

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The history of the Wood County Fair has been recorded since its debut in 1851. In years to come, the history of the 2018 fair will undoubtedly note the disappearance of the old livestock barns and show arena – replaced with a shiny new $2.2 million building. “It feels good that we’re to the point of completion,” said Steve Speck, president of the Wood County Fair Foundation. “There have been countless hours put in by the foundation to work on the details.” Speck presented a program on the new fair exhibition building Thursday to the Bowling Green Kiwanis. But first, retired 4-H agent Dick Martin set the scene with a bit of fair history. The first Wood County Fair was held in a grove of trees north of Wooster Street, between Church and Grove streets. After 1851, the Wood County Fair jumped around from Bowling Green, to Perrysburg, to Portage, to Tontogany, and back again many times. In fact, for a series of years it was held in two towns because of warring fair factions. The county fair was, for many, the event of the year. It attracted families in their best clothing for food, music and competitions. Some records show that the Wood County Fair had the second highest attendance of any county fairs in the state. In 1882, the area currently used as Bowling Green City Park was purchased for the fair. Among the first buildings constructed were Needle Hall, Veterans Building, the Depot, and Girl Scout Building – which was formerly called the Women’s Christian Temperance Building, Martin said. The county fair often represented the times. In 1854, a cholera outbreak drastically cut attendance, in 1896 a group of “hoochie-coochie” dance girls stirred up trouble, and in 1962 ostrich races were held. In 1883, fairgoers could purchase side tickets to watch the hanging of Carl Bach, who murdered his wife with a corn knife. In the late 1920, the H.J. Heinz Co. put on pressure to change the fair date so it didn’t conflict with tomato harvest, because the company couldn’t find enough employees to show up at work to bottle the ketchup during the fair. “The fair was pretty big stuff,” Martin said. During its heyday, the county fair was said to have set a record attendance of 21,000 in one day. But when the economy tanked in the 1920s, the fair suffered. A tax levy was put on the ballot to support the fair – but it was voted down 5 to 1. Then the night before the 1927 fair was to open, a horse barn on the fairgrounds burned down. “For 23 years, we had no fair,” Martin said. A few harvest festivals were held in the area, but no more county fair – until 1951 when a group revived the…

Confederate flag banned at some fairs, but not Wood County’s

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Two years ago, the Ohio State Fair stopped allowing the confederate flag to be displayed or sold at the fairgrounds in Columbus. No blanket ruling was made for other fair operations in the state. Some county fairs in Ohio joined suit, and ruled that confederate flags would no longer be allowed on grounds. Others – like Wood County Fair – continue to allow confederate flags to be flown, displayed and sold by private vendors. “I think it’s something they at least should take into consideration,” Doris Herringshaw, president of the Wood County Board of Commissioners, said of the ban adopted by other county fair boards. “Given what’s happening in the country, it’s important to take a serious look at it.” Multiple calls to fair board members were not returned. Karen Wood, a Bowling Green citizen, noticed confederate flags at the Wood County fair earlier this month and asked that they be removed. The fair board met to discuss the request and decided to take no action, Wood said. This was a battle already fought by Wood County residents, Wood said. “Union Hill and Oak Grove Cemeteries are full of Union veterans who fought the racist traitors of the Confederacy,” she said. So Wood took the present-day battle to Facebook, to a meeting of Not In Our Town Bowling Green last week, and to a community rally on Sunday to stand with the residents of Charlottesville, Virginia. “I was shocked at the number of confederate flags,” Wood said to the crowd gathered Sunday on the city’s Wooster Green. “We’re Charlottesville, we just haven’t had a car drive through at crowd yet.” Wood encouraged others at the rally to write letters to the Wood County Agricultural Society Board, asking the group to ban confederate flags on the fairgrounds. “I refuse to get used to it,” she said. “If they’re not banning confederate flags, they are condoning them.” Racists often defend the confederate flag as a symbol of state’s rights, Wood said. But as Gordon Ray, a Southern historian pointed out, the Confederate states were established explicitly to preserve and expand the institution of slavery, she said. Alexander Stephens, the Confederacy’s vice president, said the same in 1861, in unambiguous terms, Wood said. History teacher Joe Boyle, of Bowling Green, also balked at the notion that confederate flags should be revered historic symbols. At Sunday’s rally, Boyle said the nation needs to own its role in slavery. He said it “chafes” him every time he sees a confederate flag. Though he loves history, he suggested people seek out true historic heroes – those who found against slavery in the Civil War and against the Nazis in World War II. “The heroes we need are among us,” Boyle said, listing off soldiers from the region who played roles in fighting racism…

Ghost towns make an appearance at Wood County Fair

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Don’t let the name fool you. These ghost towns aren’t haunted, they are just plain gone. There may be a house or two remaining, but the life that was once there is no more. Wood County has 133 towns that have mostly disappeared. They were communities that grew around gushing oil wells, busy sawmills, or promising railroad tracks. Sometimes all it took for a town to take root was a general store, a post office, or a doctor to live nearby. But once that vital component was gone, it wasn’t long till the town died off too. When the oil dried up, the sawmill closed, the railroad moved or the one-room schools consolidated, there was nothing left to keep the townspeople there. “The oil petered out, the post office closed. There was no one to buy products, so the stores closed up and the churches moved on,” said Millie Broka, of the Wood County Genealogical Society. The genealogical society will have an exhibit on Wood County’s ghost towns at the Wood County Fair this week. In some cases, the towns were barely big enough to warrant a tiny spot on the map. “They could be a grouping of houses,” Bob Broka said. “They weren’t too big to begin with. They just withered away over the years.” “Some were just crossroads and people lived around them,” Millie Broka said. “The kids would move on, and once there was no one there to buy the products, the stores closed.” The genealogical society has collected several black and white photos of towns that once were. They show old hotels with guests posing out front, one-room schools, general stores, railroad depots and churches. There are stories of shindigs in the old town of Bays, where people from miles around would gather for square dancing upstairs at the general store. And stories of 5,000 barrels of oil a day gushing up in the ghost town of Ducat in 1888. And in Bloom Center in 1876, when 20 men and 22 women organized a literary society to improve their knowledge of history, letters and sciences. Some of the smallest towns were just swallowed up by the Great Black Swamp. Some of the names are familiar and are still used by old-timers. The exhibit at the fair lists those and the less known ones like Adams Curve, Awpatowajowin, Ted, Coontown, Egypt, Germany, Hull’s Stockade, Missionary Island, Slabtown, and Tank Siding. The ghost town exhibit is located in the Grange Building on the fairgrounds.

County fair history – hoochie-coochie girls, a hanging and much more

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The Wood County Fair’s history is steeped in far more than prize steers, skillfully stitched quilts and homemade pies. Those county residents who think the fair has a bland story to tell, may not know about the cholera outbreak that drastically cut attendance in 1854, the hoochie-coochie girls who stirred up trouble in 1896, or the ostrich races in 1962. Or that in 1883, fairgoers could purchase side tickets to watch the hanging of Carl Bach, who murdered his wife with a corn knife. And few probably realize the pressure from the H.J. Heinz Co. in the late 1920s to change the fair date so it didn’t conflict with tomato harvest, because the company couldn’t find enough employees to show up at work to bottle the ketchup during the fair. According to records compiled by Dick Martin and the county genealogical society, since 1851 the Wood County Fair has jumped around from Bowling Green, to Perrysburg, to Portage, to Tontogany, and back again many times. In fact, for a series of years it was held in two towns because of warring fair factions. This year’s Wood County Fair begins Monday, and bears little resemblance to the first county fairs, except for the ability to attract people from around the county to reconnect with friends and recognize agricultural prowess in the region. The county fair was, for many, the event of the year. It attracted families in their best clothing for food, music and competitions. Some records show that the Wood County Fair had the top attendance of any county fairs in the state. Old black and white photos show lines of horses and buggies, then later lines of old automobiles, in the area that is now the Country Club golf course. The fairs have always given businesses an opportunity to advertise their products. Back in 1920, there was a booth called the “Wife Saving Station,” which boasted the latest in home plumbing equipment. The official program for the 1906 Wood County Fair included advertisements for businesses offering horseshoeing, the best men’s shoes in the city for $3.50, rooms at the Hotel Millikin for $2 a day, and a hatter who could make old hats look like new. In 1908, the papers talked of animal shows featuring trained lions, tigers, leopards, panthers, pumas, bears, monkey and baboons, and exhibits only found at big expositions and large fairs. And the concessions, well, they promised to be “a heap doing.” In 1928, harness racing and live music had people packed in like sardines, the papers reported. Local fair officials bragged that the Wood County Fair was far better than the Ohio State Fair. This year’s fair is offering outhouse races, but there were also some unusual races throughout the history of the fair. For example, back in 1962, there were…

Ride safety a priority at Wood County Fair

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Parents may feel more trepidation than usual as they watch their children spin past on rides next week at the Wood County Fair. With the local fair coming just days after the fatal accident at the Ohio State Fair ride, it’s likely that the tragedy will still be in the minds of some parents. But the fact is that very few amusement ride incidents are recorded in Ohio – which may seem remarkable considering that summertime fair rides are transported around in trucks and set up rather quickly by people employed for the seasonal work. Fair rides in Ohio are inspected by the Ohio Department of Agriculture. The department has 96 pages of rules and regulations for fair rides. In the case of Wood County Fair, the same ride provider – Durant Amusements – has been contracted with for more than the last decade, according to Collette Dickey, a senior fair board member who serves on the rides committee. “We’ve had them for several years,” with no incidents, Dickey said Thursday. “They are a family run business and that’s what we were looking for,” she said. “They have nice, clean, safe rides.” The website for Durant Amusements notes that Prowant family has been in the business for four generations – with more than 50 years of experience providing “safe, quality, family entertainment.” The company provides midway rides for eight county fairs, 12 corporate picnics, and 15 to 20 church and community festivals each year. It also provides food concessions at 16 county fairs and two state fairs. “Durant Amusements carries over 30 portable amusement rides. We take pride in maintaining the highest levels of safety, quality, and appearance of our rides. Our large selection of rides will provide excitement to a wide range of patrons of all ages,” the website states. The company’s inventory of rides does not include the Fire Ball ride, which is the Ohio State Fair Ride that broke apart Wednesday evening, leaving one person dead and seven hurt, including two critically injured. According to the Associated Press, records showed that inspections were up to date and a state permit had just been issued for the Fire Ball ride. Ohio Department of Agriculture records provided Thursday to AP show passing marks on inspections of about three dozen items including cracks, brakes, proper assembly and installation. The Fire Ball ride swings 24 riders back and forth like a pendulum while they sit facing each other in four-seat carriages that also spin and are attached to the main arm. Amusements of America, the company that provides rides to the Ohio State Fair, describes the Fire Ball as an “aggressive thrill ride.” On its website, the Fire Ball is called one of the company’s most popular rides on the midway. It can swing passengers 40 feet above…

‘Fair season is the best season’ – Theresa Gavarone

Guest Column from State Representative Theresa Gavarone   The best part of summer, and even fall, in Ohio is the variety of festivals around the state to enjoy. From the big Ohio State Fair to the Pumpkin Show in southern Ohio, there are events of all kinds to take part in—fairs celebrating zucchini, strawberries, and yes, even apple butter! This year, I encourage you to traverse across Wood County and see everything your local community has to offer. Our local fairs and festivals present a great, inexpensive way to spend a summer day or night with the family.   One of the biggest and most loved festivals in northwestern Ohio is certainly the Wood County Fair. Taking place this year from July 31st through August 7th in Bowling Green, this long-standing tradition supports the county’s youth and community members with exhibitions, educational opportunities, and entertainment. With a catch-a-pig contest, lawnmower derby, livestock sale, and more, there is always plenty for all ages to do.   If the arts and music scene is more of what you appreciate, then the Black Swamp Arts Festival is for you. Celebrating 25 years in Bowling Green this year, the festival will be held the weekend after Labor Day, September 8th through the 10th.  This event has one of the most unique atmospheres around Ohio, and up to 60,000 people come to town to enjoy the fine arts and music! With hundreds of booths to stop into, you’ll be sure to find a special piece of art for your home while listening to talented local musicians.   In between all of these fairs, I highly encourage you to attend the Harrison Rally Day! One of my favorite days in Perrysburg, Mercy Health hosts this day of fun for the neighborhood. Make sure to stop by the city’s historic downtown during the day on September 16th to partake in a parade and many more family-friendly activities. It is always a pleasure to see the business community join together to support local events.   Fair and festival season is always rounded out in Wood County with the Applebutter Fest, which typically falls on the second Sunday in October, making this year’s date October 8th. For 41 years, the Applebutter Fest has been a celebration of historical reenactments, handmade crafts, and of course, making applebutter. Also hosted by Grand Rapids, this festival has become a tradition over the years and stands as a cherished community get-together.   There are plenty more fairs to attend in Wood County and across the state over the coming months, but these are just a few of my favorites. Ohio’s festival season is one of the many reasons to love our state, and those taking place around Wood County are some of the best. I hope to see you out in the community joining in the festivities over the coming months!  

New fair exposition building work to begin in August

(Submitted by Wood County Fair) The Wood County Fair’s new Multi-Purpose Exposition Center will soon be coming to life. After spending the last few months working on details and responding to suggestions from the community, a date has been set for construction to begin. Site demolition of the 5 buildings along Brim Road is scheduled to begin on Aug. 24, with the new building completion to be July 1, 2018. Steve Speck, president of the Wood County Fair Foundation, the 501c3 running the campaign, commented, “We have spent countless hours the last few months to reconcile ideas from the community with cost effective construction and are pleased with the final outcome.” “We are excited about the project and are grateful to the community for all the input of ideas which helped us pull together a great final plan. This building will be a valuable asset to the fair and greater Wood County area for many years to come,” said Bill Kale, Wood County Fair Board president.

Old salt earns ribbons in maiden voyage as fair competitor

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Jim Graf took his time making his maiden voyage as an exhibitor at the Wood County Fair. Growing up in Grand Rapids, he never exhibited. He was active in Pinewood Derby and made a few car models. Graf, 80, had a varied career – factory work, selling insurance, then banking. After that he owned a mobile home park, drove a truck and worked as “a cook and go-fer” for a hazardous waste cleanup company. Then 12 years ago while he and his wife, Vicky, were wintering in Texas, she got him a project, a model of the U.S.S. Constitution, known as “Old Ironsides.” “I thought he’d enjoy it,” she said. “He’s the kind of person when he sets his sights on something, he’ll finish them,” she said, adding she “learned new combinations of words” during the construction process. Graf set to work. He worked at it for a year then set it aside. “I put it in dry dock.” But his wife knew he’d return. And, he did. A decade later, he was back at it. “Now that my fingers were numb and my eyes are bad, I get to the hardest part. A 16-year-old could tie one of those knots in one third of the time it took me,” Graf said. “You know in my old age this taught me a lot about perseverance and patience.” He invested hundreds of hours in the project, redoing the rigging several times. The two years in spent actually building the model is about as long as it took to build the original back in the late 18th century. Once finished, complete with sailors in the crow’s nest, the U.S.S. Constitution was docked in a place of honor, in a window in their home. But Vicky Graf had another idea, bring it to the fair and enter it in the model competition. “This wasn’t my idea,” said Graf. But Vicky Graf said she wanted to exhibit it because her husband had stuck with the project and completed all the close work required. “This is a heck of an accomplishment. I’m just really proud of him.” The result was a blue ribbon and a best of show. Now it will return to its berth in their Bowling Green home. And that Graf said is the end of his career as a Wood County Fair exhibiting career. “It’s the first and last time.”