Franklin County Fair returns with changes to grandstand events

Greg Mast
The Ottawa Herald

The Franklin County Fair is back to normal as possible, a fair board member said.

The fair starts Wednesday and runs through Sunday at the Franklin County Fairgrounds, 17th and Elm. This will be the 156th straight year for the fair.

A major part of the fair is the judging of the animals each year.

Melissa Hatfield, Franklin County Fair Board President, said the board’s major theme for this year was to return the fair to an entertainment extravaganza.

“Being able to have people come out to see the exhibit, attend the shows and sit in the grandstands,” Hatfield said. “We looked to take some things we learned in the past year. We made little changes here or there. Some things we are keeping. Some things, we had to change up for this year because we are in transition.”

Several 4-H’ers attempt to keep their pigs in line during the 2020 Franklin County Fair Swine Show.

A couple of twists for the grandstand events include a couple of free events.

“We have done some shifting of our grandstand schedule,” Hatfield said.

The 4-H horse show, which is usually on Saturday, will have its racing portion of the show 7:30 p.m. Wednesday and will be a free event.

The demolition derby is the fair’s most popular grand stand event year in and year out.

“You can watch the race portion of the 4-H Horse Show underneath the lights in the arena,” Hatfield said. “We are thrilled about the exposure for our 4-H’ers and have a free event.”

The second free event is 11 a.m. Friday when the Christian Youth Rodeo Association will have its “slack” portion. Hatfield said many of the competitors are the beginners.

The premier part of the CYRA rodeo will be 7 p.m. Friday in the grand stand.

“They have been a long time event at the Franklin County Fair,” Hatfield said. “Some of the best youth rodeo will be happening in the arena. They are talented and having that feature back on Friday night is going to be special.”

Thursday night’s grand stand event is the Ranch Rodeo. The fair concludes its grand stand events with the popular demolition derby 7 p.m. Saturday.

“It is always a great time for people to come out,” Hatfield said.

The fair will feature a full carnival for patrons. Hatfield said that was an important to provide as other fairs have not been able to secure a carnival.

“We are excited our partner, Ottaway Amusements, has partnered with another carnival to make sure we have a full carnival,” Hatfield said. “It is a big thing. It is a summer memory moment for a lot of kids. The rides they are bringing in will be different. It is not the same rides we normally see.”

The centerpiece of the fair is the exhibits and showing of the animals by the 4-H members.

“It is a huge deal [for 4-H’ers],” Hatfield said. “What the public sees is probably 10% of what all these kids put into it. A lot of times this is the end of the project. They do a lot of work at home. A lot of time, sweat and may be some tears happened before you get to the county fair.

“That is the inside exhibits as well as the animals. Lots of early morning [work] making sure the animals are fed before the 4-H’ers are.”

Last year, the showing of the animals was the only events to the fair and the public could only view on Facebook live.

“Last year was super important to support kids that their projects was started in October before we even knew how to spell COVID-19,” Hatfield said. “We thought it was important to have a way to exhibit those projects and be able to sell those animals.

We all felt the one thing that was truly missing was those friendships, those connections you make.

“You did not get to see your friends that show sheep. You did not see them at the fair because you were there on pig day. We definitely hope those meeting points, connections, come back.”

Hatfield heard from the public that the fair events were missed. For many, it is a family tradition to attend the fair.

“We are ready for that face-to-face,” Hatfield said. “It is important to have those human connections. It is the kickoff to the social season. It is not that much further after the fair, you send the kids back to school. Then before you know it, it is the car show and antique car show.

“We encourage everyone to come out and experience the fair.”