Many of us can’t think about the Ohio State Fair without thinking about agriculture. The two simply go hand in hand. In fact, it was farmers who started the fair, and it has been a great venue to attract diverse audiences to give agriculture an opportunity to showcase our work.
The history of the Ohio State Fair and Expo Center is well documented, but its future is currently up for debate.
In 2019, Gov. Mike DeWine created the Ohio Expo 2050 Task Force (Expo 2050) and charged this group with reviewing the Expo Center and State Fair experience. He asked the members to develop and recommend a Strategic Vision Plan that will enhance the use and enjoyment of the property in the future.
As one of the biggest supporters of the State Fair, Ohio agriculture certainly needs to be a part of the discussion as conversations continue to ramp up about the future of the Ohio State Fair and Ohio Expo Center site.
To ensure that the input, ideas and concerns of the agriculture industry are heard and acknowledged through this process, key leading Ohio agricultural groups, including and coordinated by Ohio Farm Bureau, have offered recommendations to the Expo 2050, the Ohio Expo and State Fair Commission, as well as public sector leaders and influencers. After all, very few know the Expo Center grounds, facilities and the benefits and challenges that come with them better than agriculture.
When a task force is created, every possible scenario is put on the table. So our first recommendation is to keep the Ohio State Fair where it is. The Expo Center serves as an ideal centralized location that brings in both the agriculture community as well as the public from all walks of life. Moving the venue would damage the mission of the State Fair and would have adverse implications to its financial viability, as most dynamic and successful state fairs are located in more densely populated areas.
We also don’t want to see the footprint of the fair reduced any more than it already has been. The current space is ample enough to host events throughout the year, but if it continues to be diced up for other uses that gobble up parking lots and other important facilities, it will greatly harm the overall ability for the Expo Center to remain successful.
Lastly and most importantly, we are asking for significant investments to upgrade or rebuild facilities that have outlived their usefulness, including the Ohio Building, the Ag & Hort Building, Cooper Arena and the Dairy Products Building. We are also asking for funding to preserve the viaduct and to improve parking options. These enhancements will give the entire Ohio Expo Center the potential to be a nationally recognized showplace with the ability to bring in top-notch events throughout the year, creating an amazing asset to the state, taxpayers and consumers.
I look forward to getting back to a full state fair this summer. As I reminisce about my favorite moments, I will envision how these proposed improvements will make the great Ohio State Fair even better. My hope is that those involved in determining its future will see it, too.