Many thanks for another year of Ohio State Fair memories


From the beginning to the end, our Ohio State Fair unfolds annually with great expectations. This year brought about another record-setting event and one that we can thank Mother Nature for exceptional weather.

From an agricultural perspective, it is the ideal opportunity to interface with the public. In terms of positive youth development, it is an enormous classroom filled with the realities of life.

Having been at the fair for 50-plus years, I must admit that I know little about the midway or the entertainment.
Instead, my history includes the dairy side of the grounds.

Behind the scenes

For this column, I would like to focus on the “behind the scenes” elements of what dairy contributes to the fair and the youthful leadership that was responsible.

Thank you, Ohio State Dairy Judging students, who manage the parlor. It opens daily at 5 a.m. and 5 p.m., and countless hours between on show days.

Three to four volunteers are working the parlor and the dump station areas as they record milk weights, assist exhibitors, and make arrangements for milk pickups.

They do all of this around summer internships, jobs, and responsibilities on their own home farms.

In return, they connect with the exhibitors, the public on the other side of the viewing window, and set the course of their future in ways they cannot possibly imagine. The service these students provide should be appreciated and acknowledged and we can take pride in the quality of their work.

Thank you to every 4-H and FFA youth who attended the dairy judging clinics.

Many of you already have your “white pants on,” as you exhibited in the shows of that day. Others drive in from all across the state for the opportunity to view the best of what Ohio folks can offer.

Sometimes, our clinic is delayed and yet you patiently wait to see what classes provide the best discussions from our guest experts and educators.

Dairy judging

More than 40 kids participated each week and the older ones gave reasons to dairy judging alums, who are pleased to give back to the system.

We should also remember the exhibitors who share cattle and those who score the clinic quickly and efficiently.

Thank you to all of those youth who accept the challenge of the two dairy skillathons. There were 130 who maneuvered their way through four stations focused on various topics.

It took time and effort. Although Dr. Eastridge, Sherry Smith, and I are the superintendents, the real credit must be given to the Ohio State CFAES interns who cleverly arrange and create the content of the stations and are responsible for coordinating the facilitators.

Practicing skills

Each skillathon requires 16 individuals to devote at least 4 hours of time. Our appreciation is extended to each of you for realizing the importance of this event.

Thank you to all the OSU Buckeye Dairy Club members who donated time to the “Milk a Cow” activity from noon to 4 p.m. daily.

You patiently guided thousands of fair goers on the old fashioned way of collecting milk. Guess we should also pat “Edna” and “Jellybean” on the head for their role in all of this.

ADA also had trained students and interns present to complete the “Ag is Cool” dairy question and to provide details about modern dairy farm practices.

Thanking the graduates

Thank you to OSU Animal Science graduates and incoming veterinary students for their part in the “show of shows” at the maternity pen area.

One of the most popular attractions, these two young ladies were on call 24/7 to manage the health and care of cows and calves on display.

They even had the opportunity to talk about the birth of twins! Also in their care was the two Brown Swiss baby calves, Gingham and Calico, on display. It is my pleasure to be involved in all of these activities which share the reality of our dairy farm life with consumers.

It is amazing to see the long lines for milk a cow, the crowds at the parlor window, and the sheer magic of a child touching a newborn. It isn’t about entertainment, it is the amazement at things we consider routine.

I have a lifetime of memories at the Ohio State Fair, but some of the best will be my involvement with the above activities and those who made such experiences possible!


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Bonnie Ayars is a dairy program specialist at Ohio State University, coordinating all state 4-H dairy programs and coaching the OSU collegiate and 4-H dairy judging teams. She and her husband also own and operate a Brown Swiss and Guernsey cattle farm. In 1994, Bonnie was named Woman of the Year at the World Dairy Expo in Madison, Wis.



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