By JEANNIE WILEY WOLF
For years, the Junior Fair sponsored a parade during the Hancock County Fair. But after many years the custom was eventually dropped.
This year, to help celebrate 75 years at the current Hancock County Fairgrounds, the Junior Fair is bringing back the tradition and holding a parade on Junior Fair Night.
The parade starts at 5:30 p.m. today at the south grandstand and will feature floats, groups on trucks and walking units, many of them representing the organizations that comprise the Junior Fair, said Betsey Rossman, Junior Fair coordinator.
“They had parades at the fairgrounds in the past,” she said. “In the ’60s, I think, they did them every year and into the ’70s. We wanted to bring that back for the anniversary.”
Although a parade was held in 1989 to mark the golden anniversary at the present fairgrounds, it was not strictly a Junior Fair event. Starting from the Marathon parking lot on East Sandusky Street and traveling to the south grandstand, the 50th anniversary parade featured some 45 floats, high school marching bands and farm and fire equipment.
Rossman said the Senior Fair board formed a 75th anniversary committee to plan special events to commemorate this year’s milestone. One of the ideas members talked about was bringing back the parade.
“Everybody loves a parade,” Rossman said.
She went to members of the Junior Fair board and asked them about the idea. She said the response was enthusiastic.
“The kids were really excited. It was something new for them,” said Rossman.
Junior Fair organizations include 4-H, Future Farmers of America, Camp Fire USA, Junior Achievement, Family Career Community Leaders of America, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and home-schooled youth. Each is represented on the board of more than 40 members, Rossman said.
The parade will include many of those organizations which were eligible to participate at no cost. The lineup will also feature Junior Fair royalty candidates and department royalty, as well as a new contest of duke and duchess candidates who range from 5 to 8 years old.
Parade line-up begins at 4 p.m.
“There will be floats. Some of them will be on trucks and some will be walking,” Rossman said.
Although she didn’t have a final count, she expects many of Hancock County’s 42 4-H clubs to participate.
“It’s open to everyone,” she said.
One of the groups planning to be in the parade is the Country Bumpkins 4-H Club from the Arlington area. Adviser Linda Smith said the club’s 21 members voted to be part of the event after hearing about it at a meeting.
“They were excited about the parade,” she said. “We have a really good group of kids.”
When it came time to discuss what they wanted to do for the parade, member Sarah Knight suggested using a wagon pulled by draft horses. She asked her uncle, Wayne Smith, who exhibits draft horses at the fair, if he’d drive the wagon, and he agreed.
Smith said the wagon will be decorated with balloons and a “happy birthday” sign, in line with the fairgrounds’ anniversary theme.
“The kids will ride in the wagon,” said Smith. “They’re an enthusiastic bunch.”
The staff at Ohio State University Extension, Hancock County is also putting together a unit for the parade; a float that will feature a block “O” for Ohio State that stands 5 feet high, 4 feet wide and 2 feet deep. The project has been challenging, said Peg Meents, information associate.
“It’s a lot of work,” she laughed.
Staff first had to figure out how to form sheets of plastic cardboard into the right shape, then wrap it with chicken wire.
“We wanted that vintage feel,” she said.
Plastic table roll covering was cut into 3-inch by 6-inch strips, but members couldn’t figure out how to attach it to the chicken wire at first.
“We stuffed it in, then it fell out. We tried glue, and it still fell out,” Meents said.
Only recently did they devise a method of weaving the plastic strips into the wire.
The float will be placed on a wagon and pulled by a utility vehicle.
Tonight’s parade will proceed east around the fairground track and conclude at the south grandstand. According to the rules, no brochures or candy will be passed out during the parade. Rossman said there will be no awards given out either.
“This is just for fun,” she said.
At the conclusion of the parade, the coronation of the Junior Fair king and queen, prince and princess and duke and duchess will be held, followed by the annual county high school band show.
“The kids are excited to have the parade,” Rossman said. “Kids like new things. They’re glad to be part of the 75th anniversary.”
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