Some things don't mix with politics, but that's apparently not true of local fairs and fair parades, which seem to provide a perfect venue for political candidates and campaigns.
"Any venue that brings people of different backgrounds together is a good opportunity for candidates, and the fair season is timely because it's also the traditional start of the election season," said Mike Tager, associate professor of political science at Marietta College.
Lynn Vermaaten, secretary in the Marietta mayor's office, agreed, noting she's walked in many Washington County Fair parades on Labor Day weekend, supporting current Mayor Joe Matthews, as well as former Mayor Michael Mullen and former U.S. Congressman and Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland.
SHARON BOPP The Marietta Times
Ron Feathers, candidate for Washington County Commissioner, chats with Jay Arnold, a member of the Beverly City Council, during Friday's Waterford Community Fair Parade.
"Labor Day is not that far from Election Day, so people seem to pay more attention to the candidates' message," she said.
Matthews said he rarely misses the chance to participate in the Washington County Fair and parade.
"I've probably walked in at least 15 fair parades, whether I'm campaigning or not," he said. "It's a chance for me to meet people. I even know the names of some of their dogs."
Candidates hope to see you at the fair:
The county fair season has traditionally marked the beginning of the campaign season heading into the November elections.
Candidates for federal, state and county offices are expected to show up at local fairs and fair parades this year.
Local candidates say fairs and parades are a great way to campaign and meet voters face-to-face.
Matthews said the annual fair parades come at the right time for fall election campaigns and give candidates a chance to hand out some literature and ask for voters' support.
"People used to say the election campaigns don't start until Labor Day," he said. "I've always had a booth at the fairgrounds, too. I think being in the parade and at the fair has helped in my campaigns. People get to know you better."
Ohio Rep. Andy Thompson, R-Marietta, who is campaigning for the 95th House District seat this year, has only been in politics since 2006, but has already spent a lot of time marching in fair parades.
"It seems like I've marched in tons of parades," he said. "But you're not only walking the streets, handing out literature and shaking hands. People can see who you are-put a face with your name."
Thompson recalled the first parade in which he participated as a political candidate.
"My dad (the late Bill Thompson, Sr.) played the calliope in the parade that launched my campaign for city council," he said.
Thompson said one key to successful campaigning in parades and fairs is to do something a little different that will help people remember the candidate-like handing out American flags or T-shirts.
County auditor Bill McFarland isn't running for office this year, but has marched in fair parades since he was first up for election in 2002.
"Whether it's an election year or not, I try to take part in the local fair parades," he said. "It serves a couple of purposes. It keeps your name out in the public, but also gives people a chance to see your face and lets them know that you're approachable."
McFarland said shaking hands and chatting with people along the parade route also helps develop a level of comfort between his office and the community.
Washington County Sheriff Larry Mincks is seeking re-election this year, but said he, too tries to participate in fairs and parades whether it's an election year or not.
"I'm in all of the parades and attend every fair in the county," he said. "We set up a booth at the fairs, too."
Mincks said he believes elected officials should make use of the opportunity to meet people and hear their concerns.
Oran Adams, Waterford Community Fair parade committee member, said political candidates are welcome to join the annual fair parades.
"We just tell them to show up," he said. "But certain years we'll have more than others. Usually there are more candidates during presidential election year parades. I'm anticipating several this year."
Adams said quite a few candidates prefer to walk instead of ride so they can shake more hands along the route.
"I think the fair helps get their names out to the public," he said. "That can be good, especially if they're a new candidate."
This year marks the 54th anniversary of the Waterford Fair parade.
"I was there in the beginning, and we've had politicians in this parade from the very first year," Adams said.