BARLOW - A few things you can count on seeing at the Barlow Fair - the feeder calf sale, tractor pulls galore, horse shows and Bob Gorham.
"I'm 81 years old, and I've missed two or three," the Barlow Township resident said.
The oldest independent community fair in Ohio isn't making a lot of changes for its 140th edition, said Sidney Brackenridge, fair board treasurer. The Barlow Fairgrounds are already active with preparations being made for the fair, which starts Wednesday.
Gorham enjoys the horse-pulling contest but said his favorite aspect of the fair is that it serves as "a big homecoming."
"You just get to see people that you haven't seen all year," he said.
One relatively new attraction is the petting zoo, which debuted last year and will be back this time.
"Those kids just had a ball with it," Brackenridge said.
The feeder calf show and sale on Saturday is the agricultural centerpiece of the event, but daily tractor pulls also draw large crowds. The headlining entertainer is up-and-coming country singer Jordan Carter, performing Saturday night.
Although exhibitors will start arriving on Wednesday and the gates open Thursday afternoon - with free midway rides for kids 13 and under from 6 to 8 p.m. - the traditional kickoff doesn't actually come until Friday, with the massive fair parade.
This year's parade marshals are Vincent residents Glen and Donna Sprague.
"They've really been community minded people all their lives," said Bob Oliver, a member of the Scenic Hills Lions Club, which coordinates the parade.
Married 68 years, the couple raised six children on their farm in Barlow. Glen Sprague retired from Union Carbide and spent 40 years as a member of the Barlow Volunteer Fire Department, 20 of them as an EMT. He served on the planning committee that formed the Warren Local School District and was a longtime fair board member and township trustee.
Donna Sprague was a member of the fire department's ladies auxiliary and served 40 years as secretary in the fair board office. She continues to have an active interest in the farm and the Barlow Presbyterian Church.
Honorary parade marshals will be Waterford resident Ava Nichols and Marietta resident Bridget Crock, two children whose struggles with cancer have touched hearts around the Valley and beyond.
"So many people in our area know them, know about their situations and (have) supported them," Oliver said.
Ava, 6, was diagnosed in March 2010 with an inoperable brain tumor. In early May of this year, she suffered a stroke and is now battling the disease at home, slowly regaining movement.
Bridget, 5, is a three-year survivor of a rare form of cancer called pleuropulmonary blastoma.
Community benefits were held to assist both girls' families and now they and their supporters have joined forces to form an organization called BrAva that will be holding a 5K run/walk on Sept. 24 to raise money for cancer research and to help a local family with a child who has cancer.