The first of three fairs in the county in the next four weeks kicks off Thursday with the 93rd annual Richmond Free Fair. Following the Richmond Fair, which wraps up Saturday, are the Franklin County Fair July 20-13 and Lane Agricultural Fair Aug. 3-5.

The Richmond Fair has a few changes this year, Sarah Peter, Richmond Fair president, said.

First is an appreciation ceremony at 6 p.m. Thursday at the livestock arena.

“This will honor Rob Pearce of QSI (Quality Structures, Inc.) who provided a 20 foot by 60 foot addition on the south side of the arena this year,” Peter said, “and the late George Steinberger who greatly enhanced the horse program — having the show at his Homestead Ranch and being an inspiration to many. Marge Steinberger will accept the fair and community’s appreciation for her late husband.”

The appreciation ceremony will be followed by a watermelon feed provided by TT&T, and Cowboy Olympics which is open to everyone and is a favorite of the exhibitors.

There will be no horse show competition this year since there is no suitable location, organizers said.

“We’ve had about 280 livestock pre-entries,” Laurinda Sobba, fair board member, said.

“And there will no doubt be more livestock entries,” said Doyle Sobba, who led the efforts to get the new show arena last year and the new addition this year. “But with the space we have now, we’ll be in good shape for however many there are.”

Peter listed some of the highlights of the three-day event as:

Kids’ athletic events are scheduled for 6 p.m. on Thursday and Friday, and 4 p.m. Saturday.

Thursday night’s grandstand show is Gravel Road Break Down at 7:30, and Friday night features local talent and Central Heights graduate Wade Brown at 9 p.m.

The busy Saturday schedule includes pie contest at 4 p.m.; children’s parade at 5:15 p.m., and grand parade at 6 p.m., with the theme Song Titles. Saturday’s schedule continues with the Central Heights Drill Team and Cheerleaders Show at 7:15 p.m., and The Lost Troubadours at the grandstand following the presentation of awards.

Livestock judging times are 8 a.m. Friday for swine, sheep and goats, and at 8 a.m. Saturday for dairy and beef. Many other activities are scheduled, such as the greased pig contest, horseshoe pitch, 3 on 3 basketball tournament, old timer games, old tractor show, and more.

With no residency requirements, the Richmond Fair has exhibitors from a wide area — with persons from six counties and five states having entries last year.

A fair book is available at the Extension office in the county annex building, 1418 S. Main St., Ottawa. Follow the fair on Facebook, Richmond Free Fair, for other information.