MARIETTA - Faced with a forecast of at least a 40 percent chance of rain for each of the four days of the Washington County Fair, fair board member Bonnie Gill tried to look on the bright side Friday.
"But that's 60 percent it won't," she said.
Potential precipitation thanks to a cold front and the remnants of Hurricane Isaac making their way north is not the news the fair board was hoping to hear after rain virtually washed out the last two days of the 2011 fair, resulting in a loss of $50,000 to $60,000.
Photo by Evan Bevins
Members of the Salem-Liberty Homemakers 4-H group, from left, Jessica White, Josie White and Leanna Schott prep goats they’re showing at the Washington County Fair.
Gill said she's hoping that if there is rain, it comes in scattered showers that won't keep the crowds away for long. Otherwise, the board will have to hope more pipeline workers in the simmering oil and gas industry in the region come to town, which helped the board make up for lost revenue this year.
"I don't think we can get that lucky two years in a row," Gill said.
While the specter of heavy rain doesn't bode well for attendance numbers at the fair, which starts today, it won't keep folks like Marietta resident Delbert Lasure away from their favorite events.
Fair Schedule Highlights
* 8 a.m. - Fair gates open
* 10 a.m. - Fair parade
* 11 a.m. - Farm stock tractor pull
* Noon - Midway opens.
* 6 p.m. - Truck and tractor pull - hot classes.
* 9 a.m. - Worship service
* 10 a.m. - Small tractor tug pull
* Noon - Harness horse racing/pari-mutuel betting
* 1 p.m. - Midway opens
* 7:30 - Buckeye Rodeo
* Admission to the fair is $8
* A complete schedule is available at www.washcountyfair.org.
"We'll be here for the mud bog Monday and the (demolition) derby Tuesday night," said Lasure, 62. "I ain't sugar. I won't melt."
Chillicothe vendors Sharon and Ted Noel of Chillicothe are attending the fair for the 22nd year. Although they're hoping for good weather, their Noel's Mex and Famous Iced Tea trailer did all right last year even with the rain.
"We've been here so many years we have good rapport with the 4-H people, and they're here all the time," Sharon Noel said.
And rain definitely won't stop the animal shows and sales that are the event's reason for being.
"I'm going to be here rain or shine," said Brad Mason, 48, of Lowell. "Most people who deal in agriculture ... know you can't control the weather.
"Most farmers would probably like to see it rain," he added, noting the recent abnormally dry and moderate drought conditions in the region.
Mason isn't a farmer, but he's got two children showing lambs at this year's fair. Seventeen-year-old Emily is participating for the 10th and final time as she begins her freshman year at Marietta College.
"It's bittersweet," she said.
Emily Mason competed with turkeys one year and goats for five, bringing lambs the last four.
"Sheep are definitely the biggest, but goats are more stubborn," she said.
Emily and her 16-year-old brother Clay were weighing in their lambs Friday afternoon in the multipurpose building at the fairgrounds. Meanwhile, other youth were bringing in cattle, goats and other animals for the four-day fair.
Members of the Salem-Liberty Homemakers and Lower Salem Boys 4-H group said they started raising their goat entries after their birth in February. They admitted that, even though they've been participating in the fair for multiple years, it can be hard to say goodbye to their projects after the large animal sale on the fair's final day.
"It's been five years and I still cry," said Leanna Schott, 13, of Lower Salem. "You spend all summer with them."
As livestock were brought in and registered in the multipurpose building, other displays were being set up around the fairgrounds, including the flower show in the merchants hall beneath the roller rink.
Muskingum Garden Club members Judy Van Dyk and Debby Sohn were going over the labels for the plants in their group's patriotic display entry, dubbed the "Garden of Tranquility." Van Dyk, who completed master gardener training through the Ohio State University Extension office after retiring as Washington County clerk a few years ago, said she likes to be in the hall when the judges are so she can learn what earns a plant a good rating.
"If you're here when they're doing it, you can find some of that out," she said.