Barlow Fair sets up for Thursday opener

Animals, rides, food, entertainment and more through Sunday

Crews assemble rides for this weekend’s Barlow Fair, working in the rain Monday morning. Weather is expected to be clear for the fair. (Photo by Michael Kelly)

BARLOW — The most venerable community fair in Washington County, which is also the last of the season, opens its gates Thursday afternoon for the annual four-day run of animal exhibitions, rides and amusements, food and live music.

On Monday, a group of volunteer board members stood out of the rain in the entrance of a barn on the fairgrounds, a big, hilly property at the intersection of the two main roads, state routes 550 and 339, in Barlow.

Fair board vice president Jeremy Barth said the structures on the grounds are rented out for storage much of the year, and the buildings have to be cleared out and set up in the weeks before the fair, which has been in operation for 147 continuous years, the oldest of its kind in Ohio.

The junior livestock animals get checked and weighed in Wednesday night, the gates open to the public at 4 p.m. Thursday and the fair winds up at 4 p.m. Sunday.

“We will have the same old traditional things, with tractor pulls, a pony pull and live music. Karaoke, that’s new this year, and we’ve added a baking contest,” Barth said. “On Thursday night, the rides in the midway will be free, that’s our way of saying thank you to the community.”

Volunteer Barlow Fair board member Paul Fleming talks to another fair volunteer in a passing vehicle as he helps set up the grounds for the weekend events. (Photo by Michael Kelly)

Although the week had a damp start, the weather forecast – something fair organizers watch with trepidation – indicated fair skies for the weekend.

The Barlow Fair Parade starts at 6 p.m. Friday and usually lasts more than two hours, winding its way from Vincent to the fairgrounds, two miles away.

“We’re thankful the Scenic Hills Lions Club looks after that,” Barth said. “We really just don’t have the time.”

The junior livestock shows and auction are the heart and soul of the event, with horse, beef and dairy shows Thursday night, duck, poultry, goats and sheep on Friday, feeder calves on Saturday, winding up with the livestock auction late Saturday.

“The junior livestock, that’s really what this is all over,” board member Paul Fleming said as he looked at hills of sawdust scattered around the barn. “It’s about the community and the kids.”

Jeremy Barth, vice president of the Barlow Fair board, looks over the barn being set up for sheep and goats for this weekend’s fair. (Photo by Michael Kelly)

Barth said the reception with refreshments for livestock buyers starts at 5 p.m. Saturday. Entries in the new baking contest will be judged at 1 p.m. and auctioned at 5:30 p.m. He expects entries to include about 65 feeder calves, a dozen or so market dairy goats, and 30 to 40 market ducks, among other animals.

Torie Bosner, a 16-year-old junior at Waterford High School, has been showing animals since she was in third grade, encouraged by her farming background – her grandfather raised cows and pigs. She’s got market ducks and feeder calves to show at Barlow this year.

Ducks are a fairly new project for her. “They take six to eight weeks, easy to do, I’ve been raising them for three years now,” she said Monday. “You just feed and water them, and you have to hold them a certain way when you show them.”

Feeder calves are a longer term, more difficult investment, she said.

“You have to break them to the lead so they don’t fight you when they’re being shown,” she said. Part of the strategy, she added, is playing a radio in the barn to get the big animals accustomed to a variety of noises so they don’t get spooked at the show.

Bosner shows her animals at fairs near and far during the summer and sells them at auction, salting the proceeds away for large expenses.

“All that money goes into the bank,” she said. “I’ve bought a car with that money, and I’m saving it for college. Our community supports the fair really well.”

Live music this year will be provided by Appalachian Drift Friday night and Shelby County Line, starting at 6 p.m. Saturday. There will be karaoke Friday night, food eating contests Saturday and Sunday morning, tractor pulls Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and a farm animal beauty pageant on Sunday afternoon to wrap things up.

Entertainer Professor Bubblemaker also will make several appearances with a light and magic show.

While the fair board volunteers worked on preparing the barns, muffled banging and clanking came from the top of the hill at the back of the grounds as crews assembled the midway rides.

“We never know for sure what we’ll have until they get here, but this year I think we might have a Ferris wheel,” Barth said.

The fair is known for showcasing horses, and this year will be no different.

“We have the Ohio State High School Rodeo on Saturday morning and Saturday night,” fair board president and Warren High School teacher Blake Campbell said. “It draws contestants from Ohio, West Virginia, Kentucky and Pennsylvania, and of course locals are welcome to try out, too. We always have a large horse attendance, and there will be shows Thursday and Sunday.”

“We hope everyone can come out and enjoy the fair. We’ve got between 75 and 100 vendors, tons of things to do indoors and outdoors,” he said. “The weather looks good, but rain or shine, it’s going to be a great fair.”