Even as a farm kid, there was something magical about waking up early in the morning during Trumbull County Fair week. The mooing cows insistently demanding milking and breakfast, followed by the numerous pitches of roosters crowing their good mornings, goats bleating, and the rumblings of trucks and voices all combined to create an atmosphere that was akin to Christmas.
A quick trip to the Dairy Bar for doughnuts, coffee, and even an early morning milkshake often served as breakfast as I got ready to either show, clean or help with Junior Fair events. Mornings at the fair, before guests arrived, were probably my favorite times. The midway, which just the night before had been lit up with neon lights and flashing signs, filled to the brim with people chatting, laughing, and talking, was strangely silent. Carnival workers sat by their stalls sipping coffee and talking about life. The frenetic pace of the previous evening had been replaced by a peaceful calm. It seemed to me that in the morning, the agriculture side of the fair came to life. While in the evenings the midway was the star of the show.
As the 175th Trumbull County Fair begins to wrap up, I think it’s really important that we acknowledge what the fair actually does for our community. Not only is the fair a chance for our 4-H youth and others to show off their hard work and accomplishments, but it also a chance for our community to meld into one for a moment.
Let’s begin with the midway since it is often considered the star of the fair.
The midway, in many ways, mirrors the cities in Trumbull County. The midway contains the bright lights, flashy booths, large numbers of people, and the almost constant hustle and bustle that mirrors city life. Friends call each other and make plans to meet on the midway to grab dinner and spend some quality time together. Carnival booths are nestled closely together and the food varieties are incredible. Walking down the midway at the Trumbull County Fair one can find Chinese, Greek, Italian and American food, and even some funky new creations that come from only the imagination. Our cities here in Trumbull County often mirror that same diversified mix found on the midway.
On the other side of the fair, separated by the Dairy Bar, is the rural part of the county. The animals, shooting sports and 4-H projects (although some come from kids who live in the city) are as unique to the rural areas as the diversity of the midway is to the cities. Ranging from mature dairy cows (which have taken years to raise) to pigs that are purchased the previous January, animal agriculture is as diverse as the food choices on the midway. Yet, it is not just the animals. Those involved in 4-H are not limited just to animals; other projects include woodworking, sewing, cooking, shooting sports and a variety of others. This diversity also represents the unique rural areas of the county.
Directly in the middle, connecting these two distinct worlds, is the Dairy Bar. This bar began serving its famous milkshakes in the 1950s and to me, it truly represents how the rural areas of the county are tied to the urban areas. The answer — we all need to eat, especially ice cream. Those working the Dairy Bar (Milkshake Barn) volunteer their time to combine the agriculture with the human desire for a sweet, creamy, icy and delicious treat that pleases both urban and rural consumers. Our Trumbull County Fair, for 175 years, every summer (minus 2020), has done the important job of bringing people together to understand that as a county we need both rural and urban areas to prosper in order to have a successful county. Numerous volunteer groups have helped along the way, including the Trumbull County Farm Bureau, and have acted like the volunteers in the Dairy Bar. These volunteer groups have attempted to spread their message to groups, enhancing our understanding of what our friends and neighbors in different areas of the county face.
So I encourage you this weekend to go out to the Trumbull County Fair. While you’re there, take part in the awesome Farm Bureau Scavenger Hunt, visit the animals, stop by the Block Building to see the sewing projects, grab a corn dog and enjoy a horse show, see the Shooting Sports demonstration, compare the differences in hay, straw, and corn in the Agriculture Building, ride a few rides, grab some unique food, and before you leave, stop by the Milkshake Barn and grab a chocolate or vanilla shake or a locally produced milk chug. And as you leave and you’re sipping that icy treat, thank our 175th Trumbull County Fair for making us realize that we need a variety of strong communities to create a resilient county and home.
Submitted by Christen Clemson, a member of the Trumbull County Farm Bureau, who completed her Ph.D. at the Pennsylvania State University. She and her family farm in Mecca Township.
OFBF Mission: Working together for Ohio farmers to advance agriculture and strengthen our communities.