Fair Weather: Heat, humidity good news for ice cream vendors

Heat, humidity good news for ice cream vendors

MICHAEL KELLY The Marietta Times Allison Florence, 15, of Little Hocking holds her ribbon-winning Jersey cow Vicky as she talks to friends Monday afternoon at the Washington County Fair. Vicky was awarded first place in the 4-year and older category for Jerseys.

Hot, humid, no breeze and a captive audience: there was a lot to like for an ice cream vendor on Labor Day at the Washington County State Fair.

It meant Lowell resident Dan Lang was having a good day. Lang said he’s been coming to the fair for decades, first showing animals when he was a kid, and for the past 11 years selling ice cream as a summer occupation

“This weather’s fantastic,” he said, sitting in the shade of a grove of trees near the grandstand as harness races ran nearby. “It’s been good, and they’ve done a lot of good work here.”

Over at the midway, Leann Bennett from Williamstown was ordering candied apples and drinks at the window of a vending trailer while trying to keep three children in place.

“We like coming here,” she said. “For them, it’s about all the junk food and the rides.”

In the gallery outside the dairy barn at 1 p.m., more than a dozen people sat down at a long table, took some deep breaths and plunged their faces down into open Styrofoam clamshells of cake. Many seemed surprised how long it took to gulp down the confections, which were provided by the Village Cakery in Beverly, coming up occasionally for air.

It was the first competition for LeCole McGuire, 17, of Fleming. “The cake was pretty good, but it’s hard to taste when you’re inhaling it like that,” she said.

Sitting next to her was Josh Carroll of Fleming. “I think I’ve got cake in my lungs,” he said.

At the end of the table was Riley Dunbarger, 10, of Lowell. Out of a face covered with icing, she said, “That was pretty rough. The cake was good, but I got some of it up my nose.”

A few yards away at the entrance to the dairy barn, Allison Florence, 15, of Little Hocking, stood holding her Jersey dairy cow, Vicky, while talking to some friends. The cow received a first-place ribbon in the over-four-year-old Jersey judging.

“My favorite part of the fair is seeing the accomplishments, raising an animal. I’ve had Vicky since she was born,” she said.

Susie Isner of Lowell, leaning on the sheep pens outside the barn, said she’s been attending the fair since she was a child, and now her grandchildren are reaching the age at which they’ll be showing animals of their own.

“My kids have beef cattle, their in 4-H and FFA, it teaches them responsibility, how to manage money, work ethics,” she said.

Her daughter-in-law Megan Isner agreed. “It shows you the farm-to-table concept, how to raise your own food,” she said.

In the rabbit and poultry barn, 17-year-old Jevin Ward, secretary of the Fort Frye FFA, was simultaneously basking in victory – his 37-pound turkey won grand champion – and studying for the next challenge.

“The turkey was fun, it’s way easier than other market animals. It started as a chick earlier this year, and grew up really fast,” he said. Having also won the showmanship award in his class, Ward was getting ready for the Showman of Showman competition, for which he needed to learn the fine points of showing all the other animal classes entered in the fair. “This is for fun, but it’s definitely interesting,” he said.

In the fair board offices at the center of the fairgrounds – one of the fair’s few air conditioned environments – fair board president Kurt Bohlen said it has been a successful run this year.

“The weather’s been fantastic – a little hot, sure – but the animal entries are up, we’ve had an increase in nearly every category,” he said.

Bohlen said the planning process for the four-day event is a yearlong effort.

“We try to change things up a little bit at a time. We’ve got ATV drag races tonight, and truck drags, those are new, and we’ve got a new ride company for the midway, and we’re extremely happy with them. And live music, two bands every day,” he said.

Treasurer Sandra Hickey said attendance was up slightly, 5,000 on Saturday and 4,000 on Sunday.

“The exhibitors say they’ve seen more traffic this year,” she said.

Bohlen, whose children will be the fourth generation in the family to participate in the fair, said the board is always looking for ways to improve the events.

And volunteers, he said, are essential to the fair’s success.

“We’ve got volunteers at the gates, driving the shuttles, everything, I wouldn’t even want to try to tell you the number,” he said.

At a picnic table in the shade near the race track, Charles and Mary Campbell sat talking with friends who stopped by. Charles said he showed Brown Swiss cattle at the fair when he was young, and now his grandchildren are showing sheep. The family has had their homeplace in Waterford since the l920s, and he and Mary have lived in the same house for more than 50 years.

“It’s getting better, it’s getting turned around,” he said of the fair. The couple agreed that much of the activity around the fair – racing, vendors, rides, concessions – provide revenue to support what really matters, the children and their animals.

“These kids have animals to sell, and that’s their money for college,” Mary said. “The buyers are investing in the children’s future.

“This isn’t about riding the rides, it’s about the kids going to college. These kids are being taught that you have to work for what you get.”

There’s also education for fairgoers, Charles said.

“A lot of these people, they don’t have a clue where their food comes from,” he said.

Washington County Fair:

Tuesday schedule

Note: Veterans and active military admitted free

3 p.m.: Buyers’ reception, multi-purpose building

3:30 p.m.: Presentation of Skillathon and poster awards, multi-purpose building

4 p.m.: Midway opens

4 p.m.: Junior fair livestock sale, multi-purpose building

6 p.m.: Truck drag races, grandstands

8 p.m.: Booth tear-down, junior fair building

11 p.m.: Midway closes