Tuscarawas County Fair: Making the best of a bad situation

Tuscarawas County Fair: Making the best of a bad situation
Teri Stein

Exhibitors practice during Saturday’s western horse competition.


Everything is different this year, and that includes many unwelcome but necessary changes at the annual 170th Tuscarawas County Fair. The Tuscarawas County Agricultural Society will hold only a junior fair this year, and those events will be spread out more than normal.

A usual fair schedule would have three to four shows going on at the same time. With COVID-19 concerns, there are now no more than two shows held at once. Most of the time there is only one show scheduled in an effort to keep the exhibitors and spectators at a safe distance.

The only senior fair activity to take place this year will be harness racing at the grandstand on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, beginning at noon each day.

The Clover Café will not use its normal location but will be housed in a small barn, supplied for the week by Weaver Barns, next to the Pork Producers trailer.

“We will have a reduced menu. There will be no soups this year and no pulled-pork sandwiches because we don’t want to compete with the pork producers,” Chris Kendle of the Tuscarawas OSU Extension office said.

The Clover Café will still offer favorites like walking tacos, hot dogs and creamed-chicken sandwiches.

A hybrid auction is planned for all three sales during the week. The hog livestock sale will begin at 4 p.m. on Thursday in the swine arena, and at 5 p.m. the market steer, dairy steer and lamb sale will begin in the main show arena. The dairy product sale will begin at 3 p.m. on Friday in the main show arena. The small animal sale will begin at noon on Saturday.

“We are going to have the live auction, but for buyers who either don’t have time or don’t feel comfortable being here in person, we will have it online in live time,” Kiersten Heckel of the Tuscarawas County OSU Extension office said. “Kaufman Auctions is helping us out with that. If they want to buy online from any of the three sales, they would just go onto Kaufman’s website and register as a buyer.”

Kaufman’s will put the sale catalogs together, and they will be online before the start of the sales.

The fair has never done a hybrid sale before, but according to Heckel, online sales of livestock have become more popular, especially with those who travel long distances to sales. “There’s a lot of people that buy livestock in another state, and instead of traveling over there just in case, they go ahead and buy online,” she said.

Flyers were sent out to all previous buyers with the link for them to preregister in advance if they are going to the sale in person.

“We don’t want to have those long lines outside the Weaver Barns on sale night. That way we will already have their information in the computer system,” Heckel said. “If they decide that they are going to be in person but they had signed up as an online buyer, they are going to have to reregister when they get here because we are working with two different computer systems. We are using our system here like we usually do, but Kaufman’s is using their system for the online version.”

Visitors are encouraged to bring their own chairs to the sales and events. There will be a limited number of chairs available that will be housed in a trailer. “We are not going to set them out, but we will have some chairs available if someone needs one, and then when they bring them back to the trailer, they will be sanitized,” Heckel said.

Due to concerns about ventilation in the horse barns and the layout of the barns making it difficult to follow safety guidelines, the western and English horse shows were moved to Sept. 12 and 13, prior to the start of the fair. The horses were trailered in each day for the events. The show sponsors included Sugarcreek Veterinary Clinic, Buckeye Seating and Weaver Leather, in addition to many trophy sponsors for the event.

The inability to get together for workouts during the summer “stunk,” according to Triska Leslie, age 16 of the Heels Down 4-H club. Otherwise, it didn’t make much of a difference as Leslie was able to practice with her horse, Jett, at the family’s farm outside of Newcomerstown. Leslie and Jett also went to events at the Newcomerstown Saddle Club to keep in practice.

“I felt like it flied by. We only had four meetings; 4-H went so fast,” Leslie said.

This is her third year of taking a horse project, although she has had horses since she was 9 years old.

The exhibitors at the 2020 Tuscarawas County Fair feel they are definitely missing out on an important experience.

“I’ll miss just hanging out with everybody over that whole week off school,” Leslie said.

Some of the horses at the show on Saturday were distracted by a lone driver and horse practicing harness racing during the event, but Leslie said Jett is not affected by that. “We live in an area where there are a lot of Amish buggies going by, so Jett is not bothered by that stuff on the track,” she said.

Abby Sprowl, age 17 of the Port Washington area, is a member of the Red Rock Rebels 4-H club. Because she is not in a club that is exclusively for horses, Sprowl has always done more of her practice with her horse, Redd, at home.

With COVID-19, Sprowl was disappointed she wasn’t able to go to the horse shows she usually participated in during the summer. “This is the first show I’ve been to all year,” she said.

Sprowl also takes a hog, turkey and sheep project, all completed at the family’s farm. “We didn’t have any face-to-face groups. We had Zoom meetings. Our club is so close. It was weird not being able to meet with them,” she said.

Sprowl hopes everything will be back to normal for next year’s fair, which will be her last year in 4-H.

Canine Good Citizen awards from the American Kennel Club were the only activity worked on by those taking a dog project this year. “This is a good alternative to be able to have fun with your dog,” advisor Marcie Dryden said of the project.

Members in the project this year are Allison Kendle and her Yorkshire Terrier, Daisy; Lydia Raber and her Labradoodle, Darby; and Cora Dotts and her dog, Marney.

This year’s participants were only allowed to meet in the six weeks prior to the show to work with their dogs. “Less kids entered this year due to COVID-19,” Dryden said.

The group also is advised by Carrie Brandt and Jodie Hay.

COVID-19 did not affect the group’s scheduling of the dog show, which is usually held prior to fair week.

Because visitors with no connection to the exhibitors are discouraged from attending the fair or for those who don’t feel comfortable attending, five organizations including the fair board, WJER, WBTC, WTUZ and Newsymom are coming together to produce the Virtual Tuscarawas County Fair Facebook page during the fair. Follow the page to see live Facebook video, recorded interviews and updates. Events will start Monday, Sept. 21 at 9 a.m. with the crowning of the fair king and queen.

For those attending the fair, there will be no admission or parking charges this year, but donations will be accepted.

The junior fair schedule is as follows (all events are held in the main show arena unless noted otherwise):

Monday, Sept. 21

—Crowning of fair king and queen at 9 a.m.

—Bred and fed steer show and beef showmanship at 9:30 a.m.

—Market goat showmanship and market goat show at 3 p.m.

—Market lamb show, sheep breeding show and sheep showmanship at 6 p.m.

Tuesday, Sept. 22

—Fair market hog show at 9 a.m.

—Ground roping (in swine arena) at 6 p.m.

Wednesday, Sept. 23

—Market and dairy steer show, feeder calf show, and beef breeding show at 9 a.m.

—Rabbit showmanship, breeding rabbit show, pet rabbit show and market rabbit show (held under the grandstand) at 10 a.m.

—Swine showmanship (swine arena) at 4 p.m.

Thursday, Sept. 24

—Broiler show (swine arena or at pens) and broiler showmanship (swine arena) at 8 a.m.

—Standard and fancy poultry showmanship, standard and fancy poultry show, turkey showmanship, market turkey show, duck showmanship, and market duck show at 8 a.m.

—Livestock sale — swine (swine arena) at 4 p.m.

—Livestock sale — market steer, dairy steer and lambs at 5 p.m.

Friday, Sept. 25

—Dairy show and dairy showmanship at 9 a.m.

—Utility and dairy goat show (swine arena) and dairy goat showmanship at noon.

—Harness racing (grandstand) at noon.

—Pygmy goat showmanship (swine arena) and pygmy goat show at 2 p.m.

—Dairy product sale at 3 p.m.

Saturday, Sept. 26

—4-H awards ceremony/Quilts of Valor at 10 a.m.

—Small animal sale — ducks, rabbits, broilers, goats and turkeys at noon.

—Harness racing (grandstand) at noon.

Sunday, Sept. 27

—Harness racing (grandstand) at noon.

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