Jul 29, 2022 - Things to Do

The meaning of fair week

The All-Ohio state fair youth band marches down the fairground midway.
The All-Ohio State Fair Band marches down the midway. Photos: Tyler Buchanan/Axios

The Ohio State Fair has more competitions than you can shake a corn dog stick at.

  • The top Christmas tree in July? Sure. The best container garden constructed inside a shoe? You bet.
  • You can also find honey from Perrysburg, quilts from Wooster and a painted farmscape on a saw from Hebron inside the contest halls.

The big picture: This is the embodiment of the state fair, which brings together our 88 counties' best artists, animal trainers and ideas together in creative harmony.

A trio of decorative cakes.
A trio of decorative cakes.

Yes, but: Life is not all sunshine and deep-fried oreos. It's complicated and increasingly political.

  • Rides are operating under new safety protocols enacted after a guest was killed in a 2017 accident.
  • And fairgoers are allowed to carry weapons in light of a new state law that removed concealed carry permit and training requirements.

Zoom in: A mosaic in the Fine Arts Exhibition by local artist David Lane portrays a pandemic-related press conference made out of 3D-printed pieces shaped like coronaviruses.

  • Other works depict Black Lives Matter protesters and anti-Islamophobia themes.

Between the lines: Many fair buildings are named after former governors. There will almost certainly be one named for Gov. Mike DeWine, who loves fairs more than Woody Hayes loved winning.

  • DeWine fielded reporters' questions after the opening ceremony Wednesday and interjected when the first query dealt with abortion policies.
  • "You win the prize for breaking the spell of the Ohio State Fair," he joked.

💭 Tyler's thought bubble: The fair is less an escape from the realities of Ohio life than it is a premier showcase of it, brilliance and complexities and all.

  • When I hear the youth band play "Stars and Stripes Forever," written by a homesick John Philip Sousa on a ship back to America, I feel a swell of pride for my state and country.
  • Then I see the Columbus skyline in the horizon and find myself wishing the harmony extended beyond the fairground gates.
A circular roller coaster ride.
A circular roller coaster ride at the fair. The state started enforcing stricter ride safety protocols this summer.
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