Fair’s schedule has old, new events

MARIETTA – The Washington County Fair Board is hoping a mixture of old – animal shows and sales, truck and tractor pulls, demolition derby – and new – miniature monster trucks, the Ohio Valley Opry and Cledus T. Judd – will draw crowds to the fairgrounds from Aug. 31 to Sept. 3 this year.

But they also realize one of the most important factors, the weather, remains out of their hands.

“The fair board members are praying, and anyone who helps us is praying, for four really nice days to get people through the gates,” said Jeremy Barth, fair board secretary.

Heavy rains on the final two days of the 2011 fair kept many folks away, and the board took a $50,000 to $60,000 loss that year. The weather was more cooperative last year, but intermittent precipitation still put a damper on some events.

“Last year was probably close to a $15,000 loss,” board Treasurer Sandra Hickey said.

While planning is a year-round affair, preparations for the 2013 fair began in earnest the first Monday in August, when pens for cattle and goats were assembled in the multipurpose building. Booths for 4-H displays are already built, and sheep stalls are being completed, Barth said.

Rabbit and poultry events will be held under a tent after the building that usually houses those activities burned down in April. The tent is expected to arrive by the end of the week.

Although the fair tries to offer something for everyone, the animal showing and sales remain its primary reason for being.

“That really showcases to me the hard work that the junior fair kids (have done),” Barth said.

But the fair is also about fun, and to entertain the crowds, the board is bringing in the Ohio Valley Opry from McConnelsville for a Saturday evening show, and country music comedian Cledus T. Judd – singer of parody songs like “The House That Broke Me” and “Did I Shave My Back for This?” – will take the stage on Sept. 2, following the Ohio finals of the Texaco Country Showdown.

Judd is one of the bigger names the fair has brought in in recent years, even though they’re trying to save money where they can.

“We were able to get Cledus for a pretty good price,” fair board member Fred Boyd said.

“The board this year tried to give the general public, not just a certain group, a different kind of entertainment each day.”

That’s why the Ohio Valley Opry is paired on the fair’s opening day with the popular truck and tractor pulls. More pulls are scheduled for Sunday before that evening’s Buckeye Rodeo. And Judd’s performance on Monday will be preceded and followed by performances by Mini Monster Kids out of Indiana.

They will be performing on vehicles “about half the size of a regular monster truck,” Boyd said. “They’re operated by kids … from about 8 years old to about 13 or 14.”

There will also be a couple full-sized monster trucks on hand, one outfitted to offer rides on Monday, he said.

There will, of course, be midway rides, but a new company is providing them this year.

“With the precipitation that’s fallen the last couple years here, we needed to cut some expenses, change some things,” said Richard Henthorn, another fair board member.

Barth said the new company – Cromer’s United Amusements based in Cincinnati – is expected to bring one attraction he and fellow board members are asked about frequently.

“By George, this year at the Washington County Fair, we’re supposed to have a Ferris wheel,” he said.

A new addition from last year, Chase’s Racing Pigs, is coming back after getting a good reception.

The Tuesday night demolition derby is back as well, although the fair is trying to save money by not relying on an outside entity to run it. They attempted that model on the Fourth of July and it went well, Boyd said.

“We had a good crowd. We got two heats in, and then it started raining. But there were still people in the stands watching the next two heats,” he said.

Admission to the fair remains at $8, with no additional charge for rides or grandstand and musical events.