The 199th Great Geauga County Fair should be especially exciting this weekend. Last year because of the coronavirus pandemic, county fairs statewide were limited to junior fairs to control crowd sizes and the spread of the virus.

With COVID-19 vaccines available to those 12 and older, many of our favorite activities are returning to the forefront, including the Geauga fair.

The county fair is a time-honored tradition in Geauga. Planning usually takes the better part of a year as the hard-working board coordinates activities at the fairgrounds in Burton. Fair board Secretary Paul Harris, a familiar face around the fairgrounds, said there are some exciting events on tap over Labor Day weekend.

The Junior Fair, of course, puts young people center stage. The Junior Fair livestock sale will be in person this year with the option of an online platform, started last year. The sale, on Saturday, will include small animals, like rabbits and turkeys, as well as large animals like swine, goats, beef and more.

The Junior Fair king and queen coronation on Thursday is always a favorite event.

No fair is complete without the traditional contests. Apple Pie Day on Saturday tempts our tastebuds. The baking competition brings out the best pie in the county. The baker may go home with a blue ribbon, but the highest bidder at the auction is the real winner.

Don’t miss the frog jumping on Monday or rooster crowing contest on Sunday. There will be horse events including a draft horse show and miniature horse show. Harness racing will be at twilight on Friday with parimutuel betting adding to the excitement.

Interested in music? Don’t miss the fair band. It dates back to 1937 and is the only all-volunteer county fair band in the state. That’s a lot to be proud of. And it’s not just Geauga talent, the band draws its members from seven counties across Northeast Ohio. The band performs twice daily, so it’s easy to catch a performance.

There are also exhibits including antiques, farm products, fine arts, flowers, fruits, wine and maple products (of course, this is Geauga County), to name a few.

Health precautions are being taken, according to fair directors, who said high-risk activities have again been postponed. But many family events are scheduled. Grandstand shows will be limited to 50 percent of the seating capacity to ensure social distancing. Shows include country music singer Chris Higbee, the demolition derby, tractor pull and rodeo. Did we mention drag racing?

Rides? Of course. Bates Bros Amusements is working with health officials to ensure strict sanitation for the rides.

Yes, the “great-granddaddy” of county fairs statewide is right here in Geauga County.

The fair dates back to 1823 when the Geauga County Agricultural and Manufacturing Society was formed. Members set out to showcase new agricultural products and innovations to help farmers. It started that year with the Fair & Cattle Show in Chardon. Fairs in the early days alternated between Chardon, Burton and at least one year in Painesville, before it became Lake County. Since the mid-1800s, the fair has been in Burton after the permanent site was established.

The fair is a proud tradition. So, if you’re going, we urge you to observe health guidance and have some fun. It’s the symbolic end to the summer season and reminder that autumn is right around the corner.

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