When the start of October rolls around, most people are gearing up for Halloween but for me as a kid, that wasn't even on my radar. That's because, for me, October was all about the Fairfield County Fair. The last fair in the state of Ohio, it's a little different than some others. But, if you've ever been an exhibitor at good ol' FCF, there are some things you know to be true.
1. It's a family affair.
Chances are the reason that you started showing, regardless of what species or project, is that someone else in your family did before you, whether it be your siblings, your parents or even your grandparents. And everyone in the family helps chip in. You wash together, feed together, win together, lose together and enjoy every moment of it together.
2. Everyone knows everyone.
Hope you're not trying to keep a low profile because that will never happen! With as many kids have gone through those barns you'd think it'd be hard to keep track of them all but LOL it's not apparently. Everybody actually knows everybody.
3. Last names carry a lot of weight.
And because everyone knows everyone that means everyone knows your last name. Last names carry weight on those grounds as does who you're related to, period. Every year they try to get livestock judges who aren't local so there's no bias, but that doesn't mean it's the same out of the ring.
4. Certain families dominate every year.
They said it best on the auction block this year, "There are just some names you see posted in that class list and you know they're probably gonna win." This is absolutely true. It could be showmanship and they're just that good, or it could be market classes and their animals are just that good, there are some families that just always did extremely well. Matter of fact, during my years it was the Bachmans and the Millers, you never forget these things.
5. Making the queens court is a big deal.
Come early Monday morning and everyone is asking one question; who was named Junior Fair Queen? Fairfield County is pretty cool too. While many counties do pageants, ours select the top ten applicants –– more than double what some counties even have in applications –– for a business formal interview. Everyone fills the stands for Panorama Sunday night just to watch the crowning at the very end.
6. Everyone's chasing a purple banner.
After the queen's crowned, now everyone wants to know who's gonna win it all in every species. Everyone out there is gunning for Grand Champion. The number one spot at the sale and bragging rights for the next year, who wouldn't want it? Of course, that's all up to the judge and everyone has different opinions. Regardless of who wins, it'll be the talk of the rest of the week.
7. Senior showmanship is cutthroat.
A lot of times in just about any species you'll see massive classes in the youngest age groups of showmanship and they slowly get a little smaller til you get to the senior division. That doesn't make it any easier. In fact, it just gets harder. Yes, you get better each year, but so does everyone else and the tougher the judges are on you. Your senior showmen are normally the best of the best and one little mistake can make a big difference.
8. Fall weather is referred to as fair weather.
If you showed in Fairfield County, you know what it means when someone refers to fall as fair weather. Most counties have their fairs in the heart of the summer, but being in October often means it's a little cooler and the leaves are changing. Really, it's just fair weather.
9. But the weather is still unpredictable.
You really never know what you're going to get weather-wise with a fair this late in the year. While you expect it to be a little chilly, which is normally is some years, you don't always expect nearly eighty-degree heat like we had this year in 2017. Other years it's actually been that hot at the start of the week then snowed by the end. And don't forget the rain or tornado warnings. Good times.
10. The best fair food comes from a crockpot.
Sure now, you've always gotta get yourself some chicken noodles from the Amanda Clearceek stand, a breakfast sandwich from Rubes or fish from Madisons, but that's not always the real best of the fair food. The best fair food comes in the form of crockpots and covered dishes stashed in the campers. As an exhibitor, your mom or your friends' moms always made the absolute best food ever for everyone. And it's free!
11. The people watching is the best.
I'm not afraid to say that there are some interesting people who come to the county fair. And I mean really, really interesting. Any 4-H or FFA family knows they love to people watch even if they won't admit it. I mean come on, it's better than reality TV.
12. It'll always be the best time of year.
As I've grown older the generation I grew up with has become advisors, the ones above us have children, and the advisors have become Senior Fair Board or committee members, and the older board members are now buyers. But we all keep coming back year after year, because no matter how old we get or where life takes us, we wouldn't miss it for the world. After all, we save the best fair for last, and there's no better time of year than the Fairfield County Fair.