MARIETTA - Hot temperatures and the threat of thunderstorms may have harmed the opening day of the Washington County Fair, an official said.
"Attendance isn't bad, but it's not what it should be," fair board member Loren Ewing said early Saturday evening. "There are people walking around the grounds, but not as many as there usually are on Saturday."
Ewing said the unpredictable weather was likely to blame as temperatures reached the high 80s with a heat index in the mid 90s before a thunderstorm around 2:30 p.m. Saturday brought heavy rain and lightning, according to the National Weather Service website at forecast.weather.gov.
Photos by Jolene Craig
Caleb Lessard, 2, of Marietta, is greeted by Jerry the Freeloader during the Washington County Fair Parade while his grandfather Bill Hitchcock looks on Saturday morning on Front Street. (Photo by Jolene Craig)
"We were lucky that most of the crowd stayed through the rain got to shelter and came back out when the rain stopped," Ewing said.
Many of those who remained at the fairgrounds included kids and teenagers who were preparing for the animal shows and sales, which will not be affected by the weather.
"I'm just trying to keep my sheep clean and ready for show," said Jessica Wingrove, 19, of Belpre, as she and her brother Justin, 21, cleaned and prepared her two sheep in the fairgound's cattle arena on Saturday.
This is Wingrove's tenth and last year raising and showing animals for the Washington County Fair, as she is outgrowing the event while attending college at the University of Rio Grande.
"I had planned last year to be my final year at the fair, but when the lambs started to drop this spring I couldn't stop myself," she said with a laugh. "I couldn't not do just one more year when I saw the lambs."
Wingrove said she has raised animals other than lambs for 4-H and the fair, but has worked with the lambs exclusively since 2003.
"I just love them," she quipped. "I don't know why, but I can't stay away from them."
For her final year, Wingrove will show two lambs and has tips for others who already raise animals for the fair or plan to in the next few years.
"I hope everyone in 4-H does the best they can with their animals," she said. "Cherish every moment because you will really miss it when it's over."
Other youth will spend the rest of the holiday weekend with their chickens, turkeys, cattle, goats and rabbits in the various fairgrounds buildings.
Many of the smaller animals, including chickens and rabbits, were cuddled near bags of ice and frozen water bottles to help ward off Saturday's heat. Last year several chickens entered into the show and sale died because of the high temperatures during the fair.
"The smaller animals don't seem to be having as much trouble this year," Ewing said.
Ewing added that there are hopes this year's attendance will pick up and be better than last year's when rain washed out the last two days of the fair and resulted in a revenue loss of between $50,000 and $60,000.
"Unfortunately we are at the mercy of the weather," he said. "We will just have to wait and see what happens."