MANSFIELD -- The Richland County Fair is back this year from Aug. 7 through 14.
Some of the community's most traditional grandstand events have returned, including harness racing, the rodeo, motocross, demolition derby, and the OSTPA tractor pull.
4H projects have always been a longtime favorite, with participants putting their all into their projects each year. Carson Abbott, 17-year-old president of Ring Raiders 4H club, has been involved in the program for nine years.
“This year I am taking a steer named Ferdinand, my nieces named him last year when he was my feeder calf. I have enjoyed raising him since he was a week old and I bottle fed him. I also am taking a Llama, Bodie,” Carson said.
“Llamas and alpacas are fun as a project. They all have a unique personality. I chose these two projects because I like the bigger animals even though they can be a challenge.”
4H is a non-formal youth education program offered to those age 5 to 19. The organization is named for “Head, heart, hands, and health.” There are currently 39 active 4H clubs in Richland County. 4H does not just include animals and agricultural studies, but consumer and family sciences, plant sciences, robotics, shooting sports, and more.
“4H has been an amazing experience for me. There are so many opportunities if you really put the effort into it. I have been Rabbit Ambassador and Llama, Alpaca and Camelid Ambassador in past years and I have held various offices in our club,” Carson said.
His mother, Faith Temple Abbott, has been involved in the fair since 2005, and an advisor for the past six years. She believes people benefi from the fair in many ways.
“People who don't live on farms or raise livestock come to the fair and learn about animals and agriculture. There are also shows that the community can come to watch like horse racing, motocross, and tractor pulls. The fair brings people together,” Abbott said.
Leigh Oden, an advisor for the 4H club “Freedom Wranglers,” has been involved in 4H for too many years to count. For many years, she worked closely with the Alpaca program and brought the Alpaca Buddies program to the show so special needs members of the community could participate. Her sons, Bryan and Eric, were founding members of the club, and she’s been a part of it ever since.
“I think the biggest benefit that the fair brings to the community is the opportunity to see farm animals 'up close and personal.' I also strongly believe that children who are involved in programs like 4-H and FFA become well-rounded individuals. These kids learn the value of hard work and what it means to be part of a community,” Oden said.
“Just look around the fairground and you will see how hard the kids and their families have worked to get the fairgrounds ready for fair week. What the public doesn’t see is the pens being set up, flowerbeds being planted and weeded, and the tremendous amount of work and coordination it takes to bring all of the projects in before opening day.”
The 4H motto is “to make the best better” and that shows through the youth projects each year. Advisors have seen the growth in the participants; through their interview skills, social skills, and general improvement with their projects.
“I have learned that we have great kids in our community who work very hard to bring their projects to the fair. They know what grit is. They understand the risks and rewards that come with having a livestock project,” Oden said.
This year, the fair is offering a Kids Zone, which includes a petting zoo, camel rides, and pig races. There will also be glass blowing and a Fire Prevention Program.
“Pig races are hilarious if you haven’t seen one before,” Abbott said.
The Nature Park will have live music throughout the week, including performances by Matt Goodrich, a country artist, Tom’s Kitchen Table, a bluegrass band, the Mid-Ohio Community Band, and more. Also at the Nature Park will be demonstrations from the Ohio Bird Sanctuary, lessons about butterflies and other pollinators, beekeeping, etc. To see the full schedule, visit the Richland County Fair’s website.
General admission is $6 daily, but for free for children 48’’ and under. Citizens can also buy membership and season tickets. August 8th is Senior Citizens Day, and Armed Forces Day is Aug. 11, both offering discounts.
“The fair has come a long way over the years. More livestock, more vendors, different shows and concerts. Just more in general for people to enjoy,” Abbott said. “It’s gonna be a great year!”