The Scioto County Fair

August 4, 2013

Dudley Wooten

PDT Outdoors Columnist

Yes, it’s that time of year again. It’s time for the Scioto County Fair. I have always participated in the county fairs, and still do today.

As a very small kid, we would go to the fair for the rides and food. At ten, I was in 4-H and I showed rabbits, pigeons, and cattle for several years. By the time I was 12, I was working on this farm and/or baling hay elsewhere for $1.00 an hour, all day, and then hitchhiking to the fair every night for a week.

As if this working all day and running all night scenario wasn’t enough, at 14, add two a day football practices during fair week. By the time you take the checkered flag on the final lap around the midway on Saturday night, you might feel like you have almost reached terminal velocity, but it’s worth it.

You have in essence, accomplished spending hard earned money on stuffed animals and the lovely ladies of Scioto County. By this time, of course, my priorities at the fair had escalated way beyond rabbits and rides. We are now talking one week of social interaction to pave the way for a year of love life. That’s the way country boys roll. By the time the year’s up, it’s time for the fair again.

This “work all day and run all night” thing was something that my mom frowned on. When I would “thumb” home from the fair and find all the doors locked, I would sleep in the barn. As long as I was there for breakfast and worked the day we could play this game, as long as I lasted.

As I raised my little family, I’ve tried to keep my kids interested in farm and fair. I still feel that the county fair is one of the primary events and gathering places in the county. You see the nicest people there that I haven’t seen in years. It brings back a lot of good memories. It’s good to see the kids and grandkids of people I’ve known being active in the fair. They’re carrying on a tradition with family and fair. I would encourage your fair attendance and your fair participation. This is all about a legacy and a way of life, and we all need to perpetuate it.

My personal involvement in the fair has changed over the years. It’s gone from me, to my kids, to my grandkid, to community. I now provide an exhibit for the floriculture display and garden club in the AG building (by the quilts). This is one way to give back, and to stay in touch with the fair, I look forward to it and I suppose I always will. Another form of legacy is the ox yoke which we donated to the antique building. My grandfather, Forest Wooten, had a quite a number of oxen and yokes. This particular yoke still shows some of the original orange paint. This meant it was a “kitchen” yoke. He would make most of his bows and yokes, but he bought some yokes from Kitchen, KY. I never knew the significance of orange on ox yoke, but maybe it was a safety device before they put back up bells on them.

In closing, let’s talk a little about the origins of the fair. Our local fair is the Scioto County Fair, and it dates back to 1900, under that name, and at that site. The Scioto County Fairgrounds, in Lucasville was known as Dugan’s Grove then. It was also the site of the “Remarkable Tree”. This was a huge hollow Sycamore that 16 mounted horsemen all fit into.

At that time there were three local fairs annually. The Lucasville Scioto County Fair, The Portsmouth Fair was in Portsmouth and sponsored by the Driving Association. This is on the cutting edge of “What’s Happening Now” at that time. The automobile was invented at the turn of the century, and mass production started with Henry Ford in 1903. This is a good example of how progressive Portsmouth was at that time.

The third local fair at that time was The Agricultural Society Fair at Mt. Joy. This is the true predecessor of the Scioto County Fair. Numerous county fairs and tri-county fairs had been organized as early as 1839. They had been Scioto County, Scioto-Adams County, and Scioto-Adams-Pike County Fairs. Most of these occurred at Mt. Joy.

As fate would have it, the floods of 1907 prevented the Portsmouth Fair, and Mt. Joy was losing momentum. In 1908, all three fairs merged in Lucasville at the present day fairgrounds. This has become one of the state’s largest county fairs and it’s thanks to the work of the fair board and all those who appreciate and support the local fair.

As we know county fairs are held in rural places, for rural people, and consist mostly of rural events. We might see judging of livestock, garden, quilts, etc. It’s also a time of celebration of crop success and production. We have queens, demo-derby, grandstand entertainment, midway, etc. to enhance the fair, but it’s basically an agricultural fair. Our county fair system is about our roots. These roots spread across the country from Virginia and New England by way of farmers. They may have come by way of ox cart through the Cumberland Gap or down the Ohio River on a flatboat from Pennsylvania, but they got here. With them they brought many customs, one of which was the agriculture fair. Those roots and customs didn’t start at our Atlantic shore. They came across the pond from Europe, also. This all makes sense to me, because since I’ve known about Pilgrims Colonies, etc., I’ve known about that connection.

We should now know that when the Europeans landed here, East met West, in many ways. Yes, the Europeans had some experience and legacy with fairs, but when they arrived here they saw the Indians had their own version of the fair. The Conquistadors from Spain recorded this same Indian Fair in Mexico, South America, and Florida. The Native American Fairs were about crops, pottery, jewelry, trading and merchandising. The Aztecs had a fair on the last day (5th day) of the Aztec week. Many traveled from fair to fair selling and trading. This may be where Donnie and Itty-Biddy Nash are from.

This is all well and good, that they’re having a celebration with a fair, but where did the idea come from? The popular belief would be that the Native Americans were distributed throughout the Americas by way of Alaska. Their roots are believed to have been Mongolians crossing the Bering Strait when the Aleutian Islands were all a dry land connection between the continents.

With them, they brought the legacy of the Chinese Fair. We don’t know just how Asian Fairs differed from European, but we do know that down through the ages people have used fairs for a peaceful means of celebration and trade. The Egyptian, Babylonian, and Aegean civilizations prospered with fairs and trade. Nero’s Rome was a perpetual Mardi Gras.

In relatively recent times, we’ve seen World Fairs with extreme commercialization, state fairs, and county fairs with the same old local flavor. Fair roots go a little deeper than most of us might think, and the Scioto County Fair is alive and well.

This year’s county fair weather should be about as pleasant as we can expect. Temperature and rain are usually inversely proportional to attendance. Oh well, I’m probably just having county fair withdrawal symptoms, but in closing, I would hope that we all get out there amongst ‘em at the Great Scioto County Fair.

Dudley Wooten can be reached at 740-820-8210 or by visiting wootenslandscaping.com.