A new date for the county fair?

Instead of attending the Washington County Fair on Labor Day weekend, imagine going more than a month earlier, around the Fourth of July.

Activities would include standard fair staples like the midway games, rides and animal sales, and could incorporate Independence Day activities like the demolition derby and the fireworks display.

The idea has the support of the head of the Washington County Fair Board but no formal proposals have been made.

Fair Board Secretary Richard Henthorn said the board would be willing to listen to them if they do.

“I’m not going to say (the fair changing dates) couldn’t happen,” he said. “Traditionally, Washington County has one of (possibly) the oldest fairs in the state of Ohio.”

Henthorn added a date change proposal has been viewed by the board before. It has been scheduled for Labor Day weekend since at least the late 1800s, according to the board.

“I’ve been on the board when it’s come up before and it’s been voted down,” he said. “If it comes up before the board (again), we’ll have to look at it.”

President Fred Boyd said he is in support of a switch in the dates of the fair for a few reasons.

“One thing is that if you look at the rest of the fairs in the state of Ohio, you will find overall that…there are about 11 different fairs going on (at that time),” he said.

Some of those fairs include: Geauga, Highland, Montgomery, Noble and Stark counties.

Boyd said this creates problems when looking for a company to set up carnival rides.

“The fair board here does not really have a standing ride company,” he said. “We’re put in the position to try to get somebody that maybe is not top of the line (because others already have commitments at other fairs).”

Boyd said things can get a little chaotic with Morgan and Noble counties having their fairs so close to Washington County’s event. This year, the fair is Sept. 2-6 in Morgan County and Aug. 25-30 in Noble County. The Washington County Fair is Aug. 30-Sept. 2.

Henthorn said the main fair activities can’t overlap between the three.

“We can not have any days running onto the Morgan County or Noble County (fairs) in our area,” he said, adding that’s why no real fair-related activities, such as animal sales, occur on Friday, which is a big day for Caldwell’s fair.

Boyd said a date earlier in the summer would mean all students would be out of school, unlike they are for the last day of the fair as it is now scheduled.

Though Alison Baker, 4-H extension education at the Washington County Ohio State University Extension Office, said she would prefer the office not comment on the possibility of the fair changing dates and its implications, she did say it would support junior fair activities regardless.

“4-H and the Extension Office will support Junior Fair activities at the fair, regardless of when the fair takes place,” she said.

Katie Wagner, 16, of Waterford, raises lambs to take to the Washington County Fair. She said she can see why it might be a good idea to change the date, but there could be some drawbacks to that.

“With the animal (raising) aspect, it would be really hard for us to change that,” she said. “4-H gets a certain date an animal has to be born; it has to be a certain month. It has to be a certain age for the fair, a certain weight. All of that would have to change. Normally, animals are born around Christmas time. If they change the date, it would have to be born a lot sooner…It would hold the person raising the animals back a year (to get the proper date).”

Wagner added that many people might be on vacation at that time, which might decrease attendance, something Marietta resident Joyce Howard was on the fence about.

“It’s been that way for (so many) years…It’s always been Labor Day, so why change it?” Howard said. “It may have lower attendance if they change it (to the Fourth), and it may up it…It’s hard to tell.”

Wagner added that from a vegetable and school standpoint, the changed date would be nice.

“We plant a garden during the spring,” she said. “Most vegetables are ready now. Basically, we have to plant a new garden (for the fair). And at school time, we miss a day of school…It would be easier (with a summer date).”

Lori Huck, 54, of Marietta, said she wouldn’t mind one way or the other.

“I don’t really care,” she said. “I haven’t been to the fair (in quite some time). I’d pick a weekend where nothing else is going on to do it.”

Conversely, Laura VanKuiken, 33, of Marietta, said the fair should stay at its current time.

“I think it should stay where it is,” she said. “Just for the tradition, and especially with it being Labor Day weekend.”

Henthorn added that a lot of people don’t realize decisions must ultimately be approved at the state level, which takes time.

“It would have to pass the fair board and then the local members have to vote,” he said. “Then it has to be approved by the Ohio Department of Agriculture. That just doesn’t happen overnight.”