Fair week brings back memories

Joan Baxter

The Greene County Fair is certainly a bit different this year, however the tradition continues.

The fair has the distinction of being the longest-running continuous fair west of the Alleghenies. For many years, a large portion of the fair has been the exhibits by 4-H members. This year the 4-H members took center stage throughout the entire week. Those young folks have spent many hours preparing for the fair. There was a wide variety of exhibits including the animals which have been raised for showing.

In the 1950s and 1960s one of the most exciting events was the 4-H parade which took place around the track and in front of the grandstand. It was a magnificent parade with a large number of floats which the kids had designed and executed with the aid of their advisors. Competition was fierce among the various clubs to see which club could have the best float. The club members who rode on the float proudly waved to the assembled crowd and no doubt each float received a great deal of applause as it passed the grandstand.

The parade began promptly at 9 a.m. on Friday. The first person to appear was the grand marshal, Janet Crumrine. She led the parade into the area riding her palomino horse while carrying a large American flag.

Crumrine was always dressed in proper attire for horseback riding including hat and boots. Her appearance with the flag brought the crowd to its feet.

She was followed by the 4-H marching band whose members always proudly marched as they provided appropriate music. As I understand, the floats passed by the grandstand, went partly down the track, and came back for another re-view.

It was recalled that one year Bonnie Heinz was the reigning princess. She wore a beautiful flowing ball gown as she rode proudly on the well-decorated float. All the attendants were expected to wear formal attire.

As each float passed by, the excitement grew. The floats were followed by 4-H members who preferred to march in the parade.

Animals have always been an important feature of the fair so of course, animals were also a part of the gala parade. The Hereford cattle were lead one-by-one by the owner who always wore white pants and white shirts when showing the cattle. Dark halters were a part of the ensemble for the animals. Black Angus cattle owners proudly marched with their respective animals followed by other breeds. I am told that sometimes the cattle “showed off” a bit for the crowd or even refused to move as requested, but it was all part of the fun.

Other animals were escorted by their owners, sheep and goats seemed to enjoy being a part of the gala event.

And if all that wasn’t enough, the implement dealers would bring their tractors. This would be the “finale” of the parade with the tractors going very slowly, following the floats, marchers, and occasionally some bands in addition to the 4-H band.

A special part of the program came when Crumrine would have her horse stand at attention while she held the American flag high. The audience joined in the singing of the National Anthem and then Crumrine would gallop around the track with the flag floating behind her as she rode. That must have been a most moving experience.

After the parade was over, or nearly so, the tractors which had been following at a respectful speed took off around the race track at maximum speeds which of course delighted all present.

What a wonderfully exciting event to add to the festivities!

I want to give a huge thank you to Sandy Feix for providing the information about the wonderful parades which have been remembered fondly by those who were participants.

Feix tells me that at that time the 4-H building was highly decorated as well. Each club was assigned a booth space in the building and each year, the clubs tried to outdo themselves over the previous year. The kids spent a great deal of time planning the displays because this was another avenue to earn ribbons since each of the displays was judged.

On a sad note, this will be the first year for many years that Keith Sheridan will not be present.

He was a well-known auctioneer in the county and for many, many years was the principal auctioneer for the 4-H animals. In recent years, his heath did not permit him to actively conduct the auction, but he made every effort to be present to enjoy the proceedings. He died earlier this year and is certainly missed.

You might be interested to know that the first Greene County Fair was held on the grounds of the previous Court House in 1834. The fair was described as “A place for social relaxation where neighbors, who rarely saw their neighbors, could gossip. But horse flesh and the products of the field were the primary attractions.”

For a number of years the fair was held on Fair Street in Xenia and then later property was acquired on Fairground Road which is the present site.


Joan Baxter

Joan Baxter is a Greene County historian and resident.

Joan Baxter is a Greene County historian and resident.