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Visitors look at art on view at the 2017 Ohio State Fair Fine Arts Exhibition

Get Ready for the Ohio State Fair!

When was the last time you went to the Ohio State Fair? Or, maybe the better question is this: What do you remember about going to the Ohio State Fair when you were a kid?

My first State Fair was a family outing. My parents, brothers, and grandparents all piled into the car and drove across town to the fairgrounds. My brothers and I were so excited because our parents told us about the animals we would see; my grandmother talked about the exhibitions we would soon explore; and my grandpa said, “There will be more people in one place than you’ve seen in your entire life.”

When we went through the gates I remember my dad telling us to stay together and not to be afraid to say hello to people. Those were the days! What my brothers and I did not anticipate were the fair attractions – rides, games, and food vendors. We had the time of our lives.

It’s hard to believe, but the Ohio State Fair began in 1851 and traveled around annually from city to city until 1874, when the Fair finally settled at what is now known as Franklin Park Conservatory. The fair next moved in 1886 to the site it calls home today in Columbus at the Ohio Expo Center.

As a teenager, my neighborhood friends and I took public transit (the COTA bus) from our home to the State Fair and spent the entire day exploring, riding rides, seeing the sights, and eating lots of food from the vendors up and down the midway. I remember seeing so many animals and wondering if the kids from the country (out in rural Ohio, where I now call home) would all become veterinarians!

As an adult, when I was working at Head Start, I was approached to work at the Fair during Dagmar Celeste’s tenure as Ohio’s First Lady. She engaged a professional, locally-owned company to set-up child care services on the fairgrounds so that children who needed to take a nap, get hydrated, or find a creative outlet (like making art and playing games) could do so in a safe, clean, welcoming environment. It was a great idea, but I only accepted that invitation one time!

Today, we enjoy one of the best state fairs in the nation. I’m most proud of the Ohio Arts Council’s affiliation, which started in 1998. That means 2018 marks our 20th anniversary in partnership to bring artists to the people through the Fine Arts Exhibition at the Cox Fine Arts Center. Amateur and professional artists enter this adjudicated event and the results are an outstanding exhibition that is a feast for the eyes and soul.

And I can’t forget about the Youth Arts Exhibition that has grown extensively over the past few years. The artwork created by Ohio’s young people is phenomenal! You won’t want to miss either of these exhibitions this year.

Another highlight of the fair is hearing the All-Ohio State Fair Band and All-Ohio State Fair Youth Choir. The All-Ohio State Fair Band established itself as a tradition way back in 1925! Between the band and choir, 400 young people participate annually. This year I’ll have the opportunity to introduce these young people at their concert on Sunday, July 29 – I hope you’ll join me to hear the other best band (and choir) in the land!

Let’s all get ready for the Ohio State Fair, running July 25 – August 5, a favorite family tradition!

See you there,

Donna Collins' signature

Donna S. Collins
Executive Director

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