Attendance up for Washington County Fair

MARIETTA – Some rain fell on the fair parade Saturday morning, but by noon the skies were clearing over Marietta where thousands attended the first day of the 2013 Washington County Fair.

“Our attendance Saturday was more than 7,200, which is up from 5,800 on the same day last year,” fair board treasurer Sandra Hickey said Sunday.

She said if the weather holds through Tuesday it should be a good year for the fair.

“I feel the attendance is going to hold up pretty good this year,” Hickey said. “And this year we have some new events, including the Mini Monster Kids trucks show, Buffo the World’s Strongest Clown, and a new amusement ride company, Cromer United Amusements out of Easton.”

She noted other traditional crowd-pleasers, like Saturday’s truck and tractor pull, Sunday’s harness racing and Buckeye Rodeo, would also help boost fair attendance.

One major change in tonight’s fair entertainment schedule will be Zack Shelton and the 64 to Grayson Band performing at 8:30 p.m. in place of the Cledus T. Judd Show today.

Fair board director Jeremy Barth said Judd had to cancel his show due to a death in his family.

“He apologized greatly and said he would love to come back and do another show sometime down the road,” Barth said. “We scrambled to find an act that would also draw a big crowd. Zack Shelton, the lead singer, is from Zanesville, and the band is fairly new on the alternative country scene, but they’ve already released their first album last year.”

The band recently performed locally during the Parkersburg Homecoming Festival.

Barth said the rest of tonight’s schedule, including the Texaco Country Showdown at 6:30 p.m., and the Mini Monster Kids trucks show at 7:30 p.m. would remain the same.

This is the first time the Mini Monster truck show, out of Indianapolis, Ind., has been part of the Washington County Fair, according to crew member John Sanfilippo.

“We use both mini and full sized trucks,” he said. “A lot of people have seen monster trucks at fairs, but when they see kids driving these mini monster trucks they go wild.”

Sanfilippo said the youngsters, ages 8-14, take on the same kinds of obstacles encountered by the larger trucks.

“Our youngest driver is 8-year-old Brock Bragg, and the oldest is Krishana House, 14, who drives ‘Miss Bee Havin,’ and has cleared four cars in one jump with her truck,” he said, adding that he hopes there will be a good turnout for tonight’s crowd-pleasing show.

According to his website, Buffo the World’s Strongest Clown is a former professional baseball player with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Houston Astros and Chicago White Sox and a former teacher of deaf and blind children.

A bodybuilder, power lifter, and magician, Buffo performs a variety of feats, including juggling bowling balls, hatchets and other sharp devices, balancing chairs with children sitting in them on his nose, escaping from a strait jacket, handcuffs and chains, and making animals appear and disappear.

He’s also appeared at the White House, as well as with the Ringling Brothers Circus.

Checking out some of the more traditional fair exhibits at the canning and vegetable display in the Junior Fair Building on Sunday was the Weber family from Edinburgh, Ind., who brought their children to the fair.

“I’m originally from Marietta, but we’re currently living in Edinburgh,” said Jasmine Weber. “We try to make it back here about three times a year.”

Her husband, Josh Weber, is a native of Edinburgh.

“This fair kind of brings back memories of home,” he said. “And Marietta is a town that’s much the same as Edinburgh.”

A campground with more than 100 RVs and camping trailers has grown in the southwestern corner of the fairgrounds this week.

“We’ve been coming to the fair since 1951,” said Dean Broome of Highland Ridge who’s spending fair week in a camper trailer with his wife, Betty.

The couple joins a group of friends who also camp at the fairgrounds each year.

“It’s just nice to kick back for a while – if you like camping,” Betty said.

Dean said the campers pay $100 a week for a spot at the fairgrounds, as well as purchase season tickets to the fair.

Carylon and Dale Schott, of Whipple, also camp with friends at the fairgrounds. The Schotts’ daughters, Chelsey, 17, and Leanna, 14, are both 4-H members who raise market goats for sale and have to tend to the animals at the fair barns daily.

“This is my sixth year, and I really love it,” Chelsey said. “We bring the camper in on Wednesday before the fair, then my dad takes it out on Wednesday after the fair.”

Carylon, who also participated in 4-H as a youngster, said many of those who set up camp at the fairgrounds every year were fellow 4-H members years ago and now have their own children participating in the county fairs.

Hickey said the campground is open year round, but fills up during the fair and the following week’s Ohio River Sternwheel Festival.

“The campground is a good source of income for the fair board,” she said. “Many of the campers will pay a deposit this year to hold their spot for next year’s fair.”