County fairs celebrate our agricultural heritage

The most enduring tradition of any county fair is the celebration of agriculture: homemade baked goods, home-canned produce and, of course, livestock.

Every county fair has its own traditions. I grew up with the Belmont County Fair. At that time, the fairgrounds were located behind the middle school/high school campus, off South Sugar Street in St. Clairsville.

School always let out early the first Friday of the fair, probably so students who were exhibiting animals could take care of their livestock. The freshman, sophomore and junior classes each sold Pepsi from beverage trucks around the grounds; if you were lucky, you got a shift on Friday afternoon and could head straight to the fairgrounds.  

Our high school stadium was on the fairgrounds, and there was always a home football game on that Friday night. When your Pepsi shift was over, you hung around to play games or try the rides for a few hours until kickoff. Dinner was fair food, of course — long skinny shoestring fries in a white paper funnel, doused in vinegar or ketchup, with a frozen banana dipped in chocolate for dessert. (Oh, how I long for my teenage metabolism!)


The Athens County Fair, which begins tomorrow, has its own traditions. Instead of class Pepsi booths, we have the Federal Hocking FFA and Lions Club food trucks; in lieu of a home football game, there’s the demolition derby. 

The most enduring tradition of any county fair, though, is the celebration of agriculture: homemade baked goods, home-canned produce and, of course, livestock raised by members of 4-H clubs. It’s not the rides or the food that makes a fair. It’s the accomplishments of the young people who are farming’s future. 

When you go to the fair in coming days, be sure to stroll through the barns. Ask the kids and young adults about their projects, and be sure to congratulate them on their work. This is the culmination of their year, and this is their moment to shine.

And then come look for our booth! The Athens County Independent will be on the grounds all week, both to cover all the events and to spread the good word of nonprofit community journalism to a wider audience. Be sure to stop and say hello.

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