Fair visitors will notice some changes

The Fulton County Fair Board is looking forward to welcoming fairgoers back to the Top of Ohio Fairgrounds for the 164th Fulton County Fair.

The last year has had its challenges and amid the pandemic, shortages, and working remotely for some, things look different than they did two years ago. The Fairgrounds has also experienced changes, some to be celebrated and some that were unexpected.

Thanks to supporters and the Fair’s financial stewardship, a new administrative office was built just north of the grandstands where a merchant barn once stood. The new office houses the new ticket office and Fulton Hall, which is a large community area complete with restrooms and a kitchenette.

“The plans to build the new office were already rolling before COVID hit,” stated Dennis Wyse, Fulton County Fair Board President. “We were bumping into each other in the old office, and while it served its purpose for a time, as we grow, we need to spread things out, plus the new office has a hall that can be rented throughout the year. We frequently receive calls from people looking to rent a smaller facility; the Fulton Hall serves this need in the community.”

The former Fair office will be used for vendors and merchants during the Fair and organizations such as the National Threshers and Midwest GeoBash will be able to rent the office for their use during their events.

The other advantage is a new, more accessible ticket office. If you’ve ever stood in the ticket or donut line, you understand the congestion under the grandstands, having the new location allows for better traffic flow.

The merchant barn previously in the new office location was moved just north of the Osthimer Horse Arena. As the Fair experiences growth in horse projects and hosts more horse shows throughout the year, the repurposed barn will save the Fair money. Over the last several years, the Fair has had to rent a tent for horses. The repurposed barn will save this rental cost.

In February 2021, the snowstorm that swept across Fulton County collapsed a large section of the swine barn. After a thorough inspection, the building was deemed unsalvageable and had to be torn down. The Fair is currently working with their insurance company and architects to develop options for a new swine barn. In the meantime, a large tent will be used in 2021 to house the pigs.

Earlier this summer, the leadership of the Fulton County Horseshoe Club notified the Fair that their group had disbanded. Like so many other smaller organizations, they didn’t have the volunteers needed to keep the club going. This leaves a large open area in the north end of the midway.

“We’ve tossed around a few options.” said Wyse, “We can use it for a new Arts & Crafts Building, merchants, or other options. Right now, our priority is working on a new swine barn. We’re not ones to rush into things, we want to make sure whatever we do we have the support of the community, and it makes sense for the Fair 5, 10, 20 years from now.”

Another change over the last year has been an increased use of credit cards versus cash. Starting in 2021, the Fair will accept Visa and Mastercard at gate K which is in the southwest corner and gate D which is located on the north corner of the fairgrounds for Fair admission.

“We’ve been talking about accepting credit cards at the gates for some years,” said Wyse, “The holdup has been more of a technological issue than anything. We wanted to make sure we had a secure, dependable connection to process credit cards at the gates. We’ve brought in a new system that will allow us to provide this service. We’ll start small in 2021 and if all goes well, expand to other gates in 2022. This is something fairgoers have been asking about for a few years, so we’re glad we can accommodate them.”

With COVID rates going up, the Fair recently met with the Fulton County Health Department for guidance. Based on CDC guidelines and because the Fair is a mainly outdoor event, masking will not be required on the Fairgrounds. This includes the grandstands, tents and buildings.

“We want people to come and enjoy themselves,” said Wyse, “We realize some people won’t feel comfortable coming to the Fair for health reasons, or perhaps they will come when it’s not as crowded, we understand that. We welcome people to wear a mask at the Fair if they wish. The Fair is about tradition, education, family, and community, so people should experience it in a way that makes them comfortable.”