Butler County Fair game doubles as time machine

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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Since 1892 the Dearwester family has run a popular ring toss game at the fair.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews


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See our photo gallery from the Butler County Fair at www.Journal-News.com

There is a time machine disguised as a ring toss game at the Butler County Fair.

Its owner comes from a family that first brought the simple-but-still-popular “cane rack toss” game to the fair in 1892.

Karl Dearwester’s grandfather started the game, and Karl has been working at the fair here since 1958 when he was a young boy.

So much has changed in Dearwester’s almost six decades at the annual fair, says the 62-year-old game fair vendor.

But the fair, which last year drew more than 65,000 to its Hamilton fairgrounds, features timeless, family fun appeals that remain unchanged by time.

This year's fair runs through Saturday.

“I try to keep this as a fair tradition,” says Dearwester.

“I make the canes and I give them away,” he says of the coordinated, sharp-eyed customers who can toss a small wooden ring onto a variety of cane tops.

“I’ve grown up with all these people along with all the people in Hamilton,” says Dearwester who now lives in Bellefontaine, Ohio.

He has seen the sweeping changes that transformed America reflected in the county fair over the decades. The shift away from an almost a solely agricultural event to one more diverse, new exhibits, exotic foods and modern-day rides.

But an enduring constant continues to be the fair’s role as annual gathering place for families and all area residents.

Dearwester describes it as a human, real life “hometown version of social media.”

“People from the different townships come together to share … this is what brings the county together,” he says.

In the modern world of corporate-owned, mega-sized amusement parks, water parks and other high-tech attractions, the fair offers an old-fashioned alternative that harkens back to Midwest America’s agricultural roots.

“You have your Kings Island, Cedar Points where people can go and meet and have company picnics, but his is hometown. When you support this, everything that comes in here goes right back into the county,” he says.

Jerry Bittner, treasurer for Butler County Agricultural Society and one of the officials overseeing the annual fair, remembers Dearwester’s cane rack toss from his childhood visits to the fair.

“I went there as a kid and tried to win canes and my kids have gone there. And now my grandkids are going there,” says Bittner.

“We have a lot of concessionaires that have been with us a long time, and we have a lot of exhibitors that have been coming here a long time.”

Bittner says, “I know we have several families that are third and fourth generation still showing here.”

The weather forecast for the fair's remaining days has improved from the heat-index warnings issued during its first few days.

The forecast calls for temperatures to top out in the mid to low 80s through the fair’s final day on Saturday.

INFO: Call Senior Fair Board Office at 513-892-1423 or go to www.butlercountyohfair.org

VIDEO: Since 1892 Karl Dearwester's family has run the Butler County Fair cane rack toss game. See his story @journal-news.com

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