Two boys at the fair.JPG

Local youngsters discuss their fair experiences from behind masks.

ONTARIO -- The Richland County Fair culminated Friday with a daylong livestock sale.

This year's fair came with numerous adjustments due to COVID-19 safety guidelines. The market event took place in the Fairhaven Building rather than the show arena, with exhibitors and buyer tables spaced six feet apart.

The sale combined two regular events -- the small animal sale and the large animal sale, which usually take place on Thursday and Saturday. According to volunteer Cindy Keller, the top eight animals for each species typically come through the sale barn, but state guidelines didn't allow for that this year.

Keller said the exhibitors have taken the changes in stride. 

"They've handled it well, far better than any of us expected," she said. "They've rolled with the punches."

By the end of the day, 490 animals were sold. Cathy Gardner, secretary of the Richland County Livestock Committee, said the number is comparable to previous fairs.

"I'm glad the kids were able to take a leap of faith and believe we'd have a fair and buy their animals," she said. "That was a concern."

Caroline Martin, 13, said she was glad the county chose to go forward with a junior fair in spite of the restrictions.

"A lot of kids worked really hard with their fair animals. They put a lot of money into it," said Martin, a student at Mansfield Christian School.

This year's fair was closed to the public, but exhibitors were permitted to bring up to eight family members. 

Brooklyn DeCapio came with her parents, two younger siblings and grandfather. Nine-year-old DeCapio wore a red plaid shirt and overalls to sell her first fair project -- an 8-week-old market duck.

"It's really fun to take your animals because you learn what to do and how to take care of it," said DeCapio, who attends Plymouth-Shiloh Elementary School. "We had to water it every so often. We fed it. We took it outside for it to swim."

DeCapio said she'd like to continue raising ducks for the fair and maybe try her hand at goats and hogs.

"I think it's great for kids of all ages to learn different species, how to take care of stuff and be responsible," said Angel DeCapio, Brooklyn's mother. "Keeping the record book to manage their costs and expenses and selling at the fair to see if they got any profit or loss. I think it's an all around good learning experience for them."

For DeCapio, raising livestock runs in the family. Angel has fond memories of showing goats, rabbits, feeder calves and steers as part of her high school FFA chapter.

DeCapio's grandfather John Justice grew up on a farm in Shiloh, where his family raised chickens and pigs. 

Justice beamed as his granddaughter talked about her project.

"She's really enjoyed it. She's learned a lot from this year, so I'm looking forward to next year," he said. "It makes me very proud of her. She's carrying on the tradition of loving animals and taking care of them."

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Staff reporter focused on education and features. Clear Fork alumna. Always looking for a chance to practice my Spanish. You can reach me at katie.ellington@richlandsource.com