CARROLLTON, Ohio — Respected, well spoken, admired, polite, humble, and modest are adjectives that were read to describe 2018 Ohio Fairs Hall of Fame inductee Jim Long, who is serving his 43rd year as a member of the Carroll County fair board.
“I like fairs — this one in particular,” he said about Carroll County. “It’s home.”
He comes from a long line of farmers and is the sixth generation on the farm, where he lives in the 1834 family homestead.
As a fair board member, he followed the footsteps of his farther, Ed Long, who was a member of the local fair board for 15 years in the 1950s and ’60s.
“People loved him. He was the original in treating people right. He was a special guy,” Jim said about his father.
In his youth, Jim was active in the 4-H steer club and joined the fair board when he was in his 30s because there was a need. And he remembers those early days on the board as a family affair, with lots of couples with young children volunteering their time.
”The people were so nice, it was just a family thing,” he said.
“They kept conning me into signing the form,” he joked about the paper work it takes to be elected to the fair board. “No, really — I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.”
The day Long was inducted into the hall of fame earlier this year, the citation read, “Jim sets a high benchmark for other board members, often is the voice of reason at crucial moments, and provides an excellent role model for his peers.”
“I always liked to solve a problem and keep things from escalating,” Long said.
He served eight years as president, eight years as vice president and has been the superintendent of the cattle and dairy departments since coming on to the board.
He has always been in charge of the buildings throughout the year, making sure things get repaired.
In conjunction with his father, they ran Ed Long, Inc. for more than 50 years, selling Allis Chalmers and Ford tractors, along with other equipment.
With his access to equipment, Jim as donated the use of many machines to help the fairgrounds over the years.
He has furnished a tractor and finish mower to the board for the past 13 years to keep the grounds mowed, said Mike Lozier, current president of the Carroll County Fair board.
When a new hub rail was being built for the race track, Jim furnished the truck, trailer, and driver to haul in the new posts. For most of his tenure on the board, Jim has donated a loader, tractor, and manure spreader to clean the barns after the fair.
“He’s let us use basically any piece of equipment the board has needed for years,” Lozier said.
Jim secured a $38,000 grant in 2017 from the Ohio History Connection for the renovation of the Open Class Dairy Barn, which is the oldest and most historic building on the fairgrounds.
He is a stickler for old buildings.
“Someone may come along and say ‘you oughta get rid of that old building.’ He’d say, ‘maybe we oughta — but it’s part of our history,’” Lozier said.
History is something Jim knows well and the board members look to him for advice.
“He is a wealth of knowledge,” said Lozier.
“When you deal with people for all of those years, you tend to get wise,” Lozier said, who thinks he has gotten wiser from watching Long deal with people.
Decaying buildings aren’t the only challenge the Carroll County Fair faces.
“We just don’t have the people to draw. We try to keep it an agricultural fair,” said Long, who has also been a longtime member of the Carrollton Farmer’s Exchange board of directors.
It is hard to keep people’s interest in 4-H, he said. “Much of Carroll County is three or four generations removed from production agriculture and there are other avenues for their entertainment.”
The junior fair livestock shows have shrunk considerably over the years, but Long stays positive,
“Recently we have raised more money and had more community support than they’ve seen in 30 years. We’ve been really blessed,” he said about the local businesses and anonymous donors.
As he finishes his 43rd year on the fair board, he is slowing down a bit, and sold his equipment business to Vernon Dell, which has moved it out to Route 43, north of Carrollton. He still owns the building the shop was in and runs a storage unit business from it.
His cattle herd has shrunk to around 50 brood cows as he and his wife, Marsha, spend more time with their three grown children and two grandchildren.
“I’ve lived a life of vacation,” he said about his love of farming, his work at the shop and his time at the fairgrounds.