Butler County Fair draws thousands, sparks economy

It’s a 19th Century Butler County tradition still thriving in the 21st Century.

Sunday, the Butler County Fair will open its gates to a week-long festival celebrating Ohio’s rural and historical roots with plenty of modern-day attractions thrown in.

But the beloved annual event is also a reliable and growing economic mainstay for the county, say area tourism officials.

And the money and jobs created by the fair impact everyone in the county, regardless of where they live or whether they can tell a pony from a pig.

ExploreMORE: Fair’s history includes long-time vendors

“The Butler County Fair is a tradition and staple on the Butler County event calendar, attracting annually between 80,000 – 100,000 visitors a year,” said Mark Hecquet, executive director of the Butler County Visitors Bureau.

“Events such as the Butler County Fair draw thousands of visitors each year into our county that generate millions of dollars of spending into our local economy,” said Hecquet.

Tourism in Butler County creates more than $1.1 billion annually in sales for local businesses plus $26 million in local taxes, Hecquet said, and supports more than 13,000 local jobs.

“Since 2010, tourism sales have increased 24 percent in Butler County. This consistent growth directly translates into more jobs and a better quality of life for county residents,” he said.

Blending new with old

For the first time, visitors to the Hamilton fairgrounds will have a chance to be entertained by a circus troupe performing in front of the grandstand.

ExploreRELATED: Kids show off livestock for awards, money and life lessons

The number of vendors – hawking everything from amusement rides, food, games, crafts, artwork and other merchandise – is up this year to nearly a 100.

“The success of the fair has been its ability to continue to evolve annually by creating new experiences as well as offering wide array of daily activities that not only bring back previous fair visitors but also attract new visitors. From the themed days, evening events, demolition derby’s, tractor pulls, shows, competitions and crafts, and the new circus this year, there is truly something for everybody,” said Hecquet.

As it has featured since its first year in 1850, the fair will include hundreds of animals of all species, shapes and sizes – most of them raised by Butler County youngsters and teens as they compete in judging contests involving thousands of dollars in prize monies.

Sunday afternoon will feature cowgirls and cowboys racing their horses through timed and challenging obstacle courses.

Later modern-day cars and trucks will crash together in two demolition derbies. Also on the fair schedule are rodeos, tractor pulls and show dog drills and much more.

Family reunion and new friends

ExploreDownload the free Journal-News app, Butler County’s #1 source for local news

Doug Turner, president of the Butler County Fair Board, took a rare break from overseeing fair preparations earlier this week and said part of the fair’s appeal is “this is a once-a-year event.”

For the hundreds fair participants who come to show animals, crafts, baked goods and all things agriculture, said Turner, the fair also serves as a sort of “family reunion.”

“This is where old friends and family meet back up again. The younger generation meets new friends, and they get to spend a week with their new friends,” he said.

Ohio’s biggest industry remains agriculture, said Turner, and “a lot of young kids are coming here that are learning the new (farming) ways.”

Giant classroom with life lessons 

Less visible but perhaps most importantly, the fair also serves a giant classroom for its younger participants and visitors.

“It’s life lessons for a lot of kids,” he said, referring to the raising, care and showing this week of prize animals raised for years by youngsters and teens – most of them involved in 4-H programs from all across Butler County.

Kevin Harris, 4-H youth development educator for the county’s Ohio State University extension office, said the fair’s many judging events are showcases for both animals and their young owners.

“I would encourage families to come out to the fair to see youth development in action in a positive environment. For many kids the county fair symbolizes the end to months of hard work … and it’s a great place to watch youth display their talents,” said Harris.

That’s how Tyler Gentry, adult advisor of the fair’s goat barn, sees it.

A resident of rural Butler County, Gentry was a teen participate for years, raising livestock and winning awards at the fair before taking a supervisory role with the event.

“Kids get to enjoy projects they worked hard with and see some accomplishment come from that. Also for the parents they get to see their children come through with accomplishments,” said Gentry.

Turner said the fair runs rain or shine – most of the exhibits are indoors or under barn roofs – and a large cooling building is air conditioned and open to the public along with a new water misting station for those wanting to get a cool soaking on a hot day.

“We’re looking forward to everyone coming, having fun and maybe learning something,” he said.

The fair runs from Sunday through Saturday evening.

General admission tickets per day, which include parking, are $8 for adults, children 6-12 accompanied by paying adult are $3. Senior citizens and U.S. military veterans can enter for free on Wednesday July 26.

For times, specific events, evening grandstand shows – separate admission tickets required - and other information go to the Butler County Fair websiteor call 513-892-1423.

About the Author