By Jasmine Rogers
The Marietta Times
Its size had fluctuated, it has added attractions and dropped others, moved and built-on. But through the nearly 200-year history of the Washington County Fair, the spirit of the community event has remained the same.
"It's always been about promoting agriculture," said Fair Board Secretary Richard Henthorn.
Of course that focus has broadened over the years. This year's fair-which starts Saturday-will include whirling amusement rides, dozens of vendors, live entertainment and much more. The original fair-traced back to the early 19th century-was much more pared down, explained former fair board member Ron Graham, who served on the board from approximately 1964 to 1985.
7:30 a.m.: Home Arts Judging and Fruits and Horticulture Judging, Home Arts Building.
8 a.m.: Gates open.
9 a.m.: Farm Stock Tractor Pull, Grandstand; ATV racing, Driving range area.
10 a.m.: Fair Parade, Downtown Marietta.
Noon: Midway opens
12:30 p.m.: Jr. Fair Rabbit Showmanship and Jr. Fair Rabbit & Poultry Demonstration Contest, Rabbit/Poultry Building.
1 p.m.: Jr. Fair Horse Show, Horse arena; Little Prince & Princess Contest, Civitan Park; Flower Show Judging, Merchant hall; Fun Stage-Longrider Band, Civitan Park; Equipment Challenge, location TBA.
3 p.m.: Jr. Fair Poultry/Turkey Showmanship, Rabbit/Poultry building; Jr. Fair DFS Showmanship, Show arena.
4 p.m.: Jr. Fair Cake Decorating Contest, Jr. Fair Building; Fun Stage-Insured Sounds Band, Civitan Park; Nail driving contest, location TBA.
5 p.m.: Jr. Fair DFS Show (Market classes), Show arena; 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. Midway Shutdown for safety inspection; Coin Hunt (ages 12 and under), Civitan Park; Goat Dress Up, Sheep/Goat arena; Pie Baking Contest judging, Home Arts Building.
6 p.m.: Pie Auction, Home Arts Building; Fun Stage-Karaoke, Civitan Park; Truck & Tractor Pull-Hot Classes, Grandstand.
11 p.m.: Midway closes.
9 a.m.: Worship Service, location TBA; Jr. Fair Market Showmanship, Market Goat Show, Goat Breeding Showmanship, Goat Breeding Show, Show arena.
10 a.m.: Pioneer City Riding Club Contest, Horse arena; Small Tractor Tug Pull, location TBA.
11 a.m. Jr. Fair Poultry Judging, Rabbit/Poultry Building.
Noon: Jr. Fair Rabbit Judging, Rabbit/Poultry Building; Harness Horse Racing (Pari-Mutual Wagering), Grandstand.
1 p.m.: Jr. Fair Market Beef Showmanship, Show arena; Midway opens; Fun Stage-Buck & Company Band, Civitan Park; 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Equipment Challenge, Old Rabbit Barn Arena; Grain Bin Storage Rescue Training, Show arena.
2 p.m.: Jr. Fair Market Beef Show, Show arena; 4-H Demonstration Contest, Jr. Fair Building.
4 p.m.: Jr. Fair Beef Breeding Showmanship, Jr. Fair Beef Breeding Show, Show arena; Fun Stage-Space Chickens Band, Civitan Park; Nail Driving Contest, location TBA.
5 p.m.: 5 to 6 p.m. Midway shuts down for safety inspection; Sheep Lead Class, Sheep/Goat arena; Coin Hunt (ages 12 and under), Civitan Park.
6 p.m.: Waterford FFA Alumni Pedal Tractor Pull, Civitan Park.
7:30 p.m.: Broken Horn Rodeo, Grandstand.
11 p.m.: Midway closes.
8 a.m.: Jr. Fair Market Lamb Showmanship, Show Arena; Jr. Fair Fancy Poultry Show, Rabbit/Poultry Building.
9 a.m. Pony Pull, Back Side Race Track; Antique Tractor Pull, Back Side Race Track.
10 a.m.: Jr. Fair Horse Show, Horse arena; Jr. Fair Market Lamb Show, Horse Arena.
Noon: Midway opens; Fast Traxx Motorcross Racing, Grandstand.
12:30 p.m.: Ladies Lead, Show Arena.
1 p.m.: 1 to 7 p.m. Election of Fair Board Directors, Home Arts Building; Jr. Fair Sheep Breeding Showmanship, Show Arena; Jr. Fair Sheep Breeding Show, Show Arena; Cloverbud Activities, Jr. Fair Building; Fun Stage-New Silver Eagle Band, Civitan Park; 1 to 5 p.m. Equipment Challenge, location TBA.
4 p.m.: Fun Stage-Picking on Country Band, Civitan Park; Nail Driving Contest, location TBA.
4:30 p.m.: Small Animal Buyers Reception, Show Arena.
5 p.m.: Jr. Fair Small Animal Sale, Shw Arena; 5 to 6 p.m. Midway shuts down for safety inspection; Coin Hunt (Ages 12 and under), Civitan Park.
6 p.m.: Northeast Ohio Dukes Stunt Show, Grandstand; Fun Stage-Karaoke, Civitan Park.
11 p.m.: Midway closes.
9 a.m.: Jr. Fair Dairy Showmanship, Show Arena.
10 a.m.: Jr. Fair Horse Show, Horse Arena; Jr. Fair Dairy Breeding Judging, Show Arena.
4 p.m.: Midway opens.
5 p.m.: Large Animal Buyers Reception, Show Arena.
6 p.m.: Jr. Fair Large Animal Sale, Show Arena; Fun Stage-Karaoke, Civitan Park.
7 p.m.: Demolition Derby, Grandstand.
11 p.m.: Midway closes.
"The first fair, they did it right there on Second Street. They just brought the cattle in and tied them up on the side the road," he laughed.
According to a 1938 article in The Marietta Times, the Washington County Agricultural and Mechanical Association was formed in 1819 by many prominent Marietta settlers. Fairs were held for a number of years after that, but the first mention of a fair is in 1826. At that fair, prizes were given for the largest crops. One prize was a $10 plow.
Also notable of some of the earlier fairs is that they were a combined effort with Wood County, W.Va., said Henthorn.
A separate advertisement in the same 1938 issue of The Marietta Times attributes the fair's start date to 1850.
But no fairs were held between 1861 and 1865, during the Civil War.
Regardless of specifics, the fair has long maintained its distinction of being the second oldest county fair in the state, said Henthorn.
The fair possibly moved from downtown locations, such as Second and Putnam streets and Muskingum Park, in 1857 when William R. Putnam donated the original land for the current Washington County Fairgrounds.
The parade was added in the mid-1960s but hit its peak during Marietta's bicentennial celebration, Graham recalled.
"The local people and businesses bought so many floats (for the city's celebration). We're talking big, impressive, commercial floats. They had so much money in those floats, they wanted to use them again. That was the biggest parade we ever had. I think we had like nine bands that year," he said.
The tradition of holding the parade on Labor Day weekend pre-dates Graham's memory but was at least in practice by the publication of the 1936 article. At that time, the fair was a three-day affair, starting Labor Day and continuing until Wednesday.
The fair eventually enveloped the weekend, becoming a five-day event. However, sometime in the 1970s, the fair board decided to make the fair shorter again.
"We decided to squeeze it together and have four bigger days rather than five spread out," said Graham.
Other long-time aspects of the fair have been the involvement of youth and a dedicated team of volunteers.
"There's so many people that volunteer and so many donations that make it work," said Henthorn of the fair today.
Ever evolving, this year's fair will feature a new building. The rabbit and poultry barn, which burned down last year, has been rebuilt and will officially open to the public when the fair opens Saturday.
The fair kicks off Saturday morning. The annual fair parade will lead a procession from Ohio Street to the fairgrounds.
Some daily attractions include the Pampered Pets Petting Farm, Granpa Cratchet puppet show and Great Lakes Timber Show.
A truck and tractor pull will take over the grandstand Saturday night at 6 p.m. On Sunday, the Broken Horn Rodeo will host the Washington County World Championship Rodeo. The event will feature bare bronc riding, saddle bronc riding, calf roping, steer wrestling, bull riding, team roping and girls barrel racing, according to the fair's website.
The animal sales start Monday at 5 p.m. with the small animal sale and continue Tuesday with the large animal sale at 6 p.m.
Fairgoers will recognize the stunt cars in Monday's big evening attraction from television.
The Northeast Ohio Dukes Hazzard County Stunt Show will feature the famous Dodge Charger driven by Bo and Duke Hazzard, as well as several other cars from the Dukes of Hazzard and actor Byron Cherry who played Coy Hazzard.
The fair ends Tuesday with the Demolition Derby being the last big event. The fair will also feature midway rides from noon to 11 p.m. on Saturday and Monday, 1 to 11 p.m. Sunday and 4 to 11 p.m. Tuesday.