Rain washed out most of the final day of the Washington County Fair, dealing a blow to the finances of the annual event.
The fair board decided not to open the midway Tuesday and canceled the demolition derby due to near-continuous precipitation from Sunday evening well into Tuesday night. Final numbers were not immediately available but overall attendance may not have reached two-thirds of the normal 20,000, according to early estimates.
"This hurt us quite a bit," fair board secretary Bonnie Gill said. "Our fair's supposed to be our biggest fundraiser to give us a little bit of a cushion and help us pay our bills."
Jessica Wingrove's reserve champion lamb fetched a record $12 a pound at the Washington County Fair.
The bright spot Tuesday was the large animal sale, which drew a large crowd and about 25 new buyers.
"It's good to see new bidders in the stands because it takes at least two bidders to get one buyer," said Eric Barrett, agricultural educator for the local Ohio State University Extension Service.
Gill said the fair almost certainly lost money this year, although the amount and impact won't be known for a while. At the least, the fair board will have to look into having more fundraisers for next year's fair, she said.
EVAN BEVINS The Marietta Times
Watertown resident Ashley Payne, 16, was pulling double duty on the last day of the Washington County Fair. The 2011 junior fair queen also had the grand champion market steer, Snuffy.
"There's still a lot of outstanding bills out there, supplies it takes to get the fair going," said fair board President Steve Tornes.
This year's fair had some added attractions, including a headlining country music act, the LoCash Cowboys, and a comedy hypnosis show.
"It takes money to make money," Gill said. "We tried that and Mother Nature backfired on us."
By the numbers
Estimated fair attendance
- Saturday - 6,200.
- Sunday - 5,055.
- Monday - 800.
- Tuesday - Zero.
Source: Washington County Fair Board.
Not opening Tuesday actually saved money, Gill said, since people parking cars and working the gate would have been paid and a decent crowd wasn't likely.
White Valley Kettle Corn, of Parkersburg, stuck it out for most of Tuesday but never officially opened, said Terrie Ferree, who owns the business with her husband. For them, the fair was "a dud."
"We've been here for 12 years. ... This is the worst year we had," she said as they took down their stand Tuesday evening.
But that doesn't mean they won't be back for a 13th year.
"We're still coming back. Got too many customers (that) like our popcorn," Ferree said.
And there will be a next year, Tornes said, even if some adjustments have to be made.
"I don't see (the low attendance) jeopardizing the fair," he said.
Business was brisk in the multipurpose arena, with buyers spending more than $129,000 on dairy feeder steers, lambs and market steers. A record was set when Belpre resident Jessica Wingrove's reserve champion lamb was sold for $12 a pound.
The buyer was Jeff Cox, who set the previous record last year bidding for his company, We Can Fabrications in Tuppers Plains. He was bidding for Wingrove's lamb on behalf of Polymer Services of Ohio, whose owners he noted were friends with the Wingrove family, as was he.
"It's just a fun thing to do to support the kids," said Cox.
Wingrove, 18, described herself as "pretty ecstatic" to break the record but was quick to add that the final number wasn't the most important thing.
"Even if you don't do good (at the sale), you know that you've worked hard to get where you are,and I can do anything I set my mind to," she said.
Wearing two hats - one of them a tiara - at the fair Tuesday was Watertown resident Ashley Payne. The 16-year-old was crowned the 2011 junior fair queen and posed for pictures with champion animals and their owners and buyers,and also had the grand champion market steer, a 1,302-pounder named Snuffy.
Snuffy sold for $3.30 a pound to McDonald's of Marietta and the Laminate Shop, whose owners are husband and wife.
Payne has been showing animals through 4-H for seven years but the junior fair queen competition was a new venture for her.
"They were both really tough actually," she said. "I had a lot of competition in both. And I was also shocked when I won both."
Snuffy was the grand champion feeder calf at the 2010 Barlow Fair. He was sold at auction then, but Payne wasn't done with him.
"He was such a great calf, I had to buy him back and bring him here," she said.
Twelve-year-old Clayton Campbell had two lambs in the sale and also raised a pig that he showed at the Waterford Community Fair this year.
"I think they're both about the same but pigs are a little bit more expensive to feed," he said. "A hog is easier to show because you handle it with a cane instead of holding it by the head. And pigs are a little bit smarter than sheep."