Fairgoers embrace traditions, try new things at Summit Co. Fair

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A woman and a child stand next to a goat pen at the fair.
Eli Everly checks out the goats at the Summit County Fair with his mom, Ashley Everly, July 28. It’s Eli’s first time visiting the fair, and so far, the animals are his favorite part. (Sarah Donaldson photo)

*Updated 8/06

The heat didn’t stop 4-H’ers and fair visitors from enjoying the Summit County Fair, in Tallmadge, Ohio, during the last week of July.

The afternoon of July 28, some 4-H’ers finally showed the livestock they’ve been working with all year, or geared up for more shows later in the week. Other 4-H’ers and fairgoers walked around the fairgrounds, visiting animals, checking out displays and enjoying fair food.

• • •

In a quiet goat and sheep barn at the bottom of a hill, members of JZ’s Wild Bunch 4-H Club practiced showing goats. One of them, Alex Panzner, 13, won the overall turkey showman title this year.

That win qualified her to compete in the showman of showmen competition, which involves showing almost every type of livestock on the fairgrounds — from poultry and rabbits, to horses and market steer. Most of those animals were completely new to her.

“I’m so nervous,” she said. “I only show poultry.”

Bridget and Clara Carsey, both 12, helped her get ready for the goat showmanship part of the competition. They demonstrated how to set a Pygmy goat’s feet properly, and how to crouch beside the goat without putting a knee on the ground — kneeling is a quick way to lose points in showmanship. Their best advice for Alex?

“Always keep the goat between you and the judge,” Bridget said.

Three girls and a boy crouch next to two goats in a barn at the fair while practicing for a show.
Bridget Carsey, 12, right, and Clara Carsey, 12, center, teach Alex Panzner, 13, how to show goats, while Alex’s brother, Matt, 10, looks on from behind her, at the Summit County Fair, in Tallmadge, Ohio, July 28. (Sarah Donaldson photo)

• • •

Bella Vasquez, of Trail Blazers 4-H Club, made the leap from showing rabbits to showing horses this year, for her sixth year in 4-H. It’s a bigger commitment, she says, since you have to be up early and spend more time making sure that your horses get enough exercise while they’re at the fairgrounds.

During a break between shows, she washed her horse, Lucas, who she just competed in a dressage show with, outside the horse barn.

“Bunnies are so much easier,” she said. “You can just do your thing and go home.”

But so far, she’s loved showing horses at the fair. Many of her friends show horses, and she gets to hang out with them more this way.

A girl washes a horse after a show at the fair.
Bella Vasquez, of Trailblazers 4-H Club, washes her horse, Lucas, after a dressage class at the Summit County Fair, in Tallmadge, Ohio, July 28. (Sarah Donaldson photo)

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Destini Knox, 18, of Hutch Bunch 4-H Club, also decided to try something a little different this year. For her first five years in 4-H, she also usually showed rabbits. Now, in her second to last year, she’s added on a market steer project.

“I’ve always wanted a cow,” she said. “I just think they’re cute.”

She was a little sad to be selling her market steer at the end of the week. While she’s sold rabbits before, they weren’t market rabbits and would end up as pets for other families. But as she cleaned up sawdust in an aisle while on barn duty, she said she was looking forward to a long day of both showing rabbits and steer, on July 29.

• • •

In the same barn, a little earlier that afternoon, Eli Everly, less than a year old, visited with fair animals for the first time with his mom, Ashley Everly, of Portage County. The Everlys have a few chickens at home, but the fair is the first time Eli has seen animals that big.

Visiting the fair is a tradition in her family, Ashley Everly said.

“We try and go every year,” she said. “He’s liking the animals so far.”

• • •

The fair is also a tradition for Diane Adamson, a long-time Summit County resident, who brought her son, Noah, 11, to the fair. They stopped in the rabbit barn to visit with Max Dennison, 12, and his mini rex rabbit, Karl, who were getting ready for Max’s first year of showing at the fair.

Diane Adamson’s favorite parts of the fair are visiting the animals in the barns, and enjoying the fair food.

“I’ve been coming here for 45 years,” she said. “You can’t miss it.”

A woman pets a rabbit on a table at the fair while the rabbit's owner, a boy, looks on.
Max Dennison, 12, shows off his mini rex rabbit, Karl, to Diane Adamson, a fairgoer who has been visiting the Summit County Fair for years. (Sarah Donaldson photo)

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Reporter Sarah Donaldson is a former 4-Her and a Mount Union graduate from Columbiana County, Ohio. She enjoys playing and writing music, cooking, and storytelling in many forms. She can be reached at 800-837-3419 or sarah@farmanddairy.com.

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