BARLOW -"It never rains on the Barlow Fair" is a tongue-in-cheek quote heard every year at Ohio's oldest independent agricultural exhibition.
But that phrase held true for the fair that ran Thursday through Sunday this year.
"It's been several years since we've had four days without rain - the weather was beautiful all weekend, and I think we're close to record attendance," Joe Campbell, president of the Barlow Fair Board, said Sunday.
Wirt County residents Colin Burroughs, 10, left, sister Carly, center, and mom Kelly get a close-up look at an alpaca mother and her baby “cria” during the 142nd Barlow Fair on Sunday afternoon. (Photo by Sam Shawver)
As usual Saturday brought the largest crowd with plenty of animal judging and entertainment.
"But Thursday night the midway was really packed," Campbell added. "This was the first year we opened the midway amusement rides to everyone, no matter what their age. In the past it was limited to ages 13 and under."
Fair board treasurer Maggie Hearn agreed the free rides on Thursday evening helped boost the attendance numbers.
"We had at least 1,200 people, not counting kids 6 years old and younger," she said. "We haven't done as well in total attendance since 2007, and there was a huge crowd Saturday in spite of local football games. And we had 60 vendors who participated this year."
Campbell said an estimated 6,000 people had passed through the fair gates Thursday through Saturday, which, at $5 a ticket, translated to around $30,000 in the first three days alone.
"It's a family event, and we don't charge a lot," he said. "We just hope to make enough money to pay for our maintenance costs and some extra for needed improvements."
Proceeds from this year's event will go toward a new public address system and upgrades to the cattle barn, Campbell said.
Tractor or horse pulls held each day of the fair draw some big crowds, he said, noting Saturday's draft horse pull brought more than 200 people.
"Chicken" Pugh, 81, has been the official tractor pull announcer at the Barlow Fair for years.
"I've been doing this for 59 years now - started back in 1954," he said. "And this year's pulls have been well-attended. We've had 20 to 40 tractors in every event."
Pugh said the contestants are mainly local farmers from Washington and Morgan counties.
Rachael Boyer, of Barlow, is one of the few females who enjoy participating in the annual tractor pulls.
"I got into it because of my husband (B.J. Boyer)," she said. "His mom also pulls in first class, and his dad, cousins and uncles also do tractor pulls."
Boyer said it's great fun.
"There's all this weight you pull with a little tractor that weighs maybe 500 pounds," she said. "But the sled you're pulling may weigh 12,000 pounds."
Just down the hill nearly 40 youngsters were particpating in their own "pedal tractor pull," another favorite at the Barlow Fair.
Warren Township resident Dean Mason's children, Devon, 2, and McKensie, 4, were among Sunday's entrants.
"I did this when I was young - about the same age," Dean said.
The pedal tractor pull was apparently an inspiration, as Dean now participates in the regular tractor pulls and won the 11,000 pound tug pull this weekend.
"And I can honestly say I have been to the Barlow Fair all of my life," he added. "Today's my birthday. My mom and dad were attending the fair the weekend I was born. They left on a Saturday night and I was born Sunday morning."