Trash can canvas


SALEM, Ohio – Toss your empty french fry cup in the trash at the Carroll County Fair and you might notice a horse or a cow or a stick-figure 4-H’er smiling at you from the side of the barrel.
Not all county fairs take such pride in the appearance of waste receptacles. But in Carroll County, you won’t find rusted cans or barrels with five layers of chipped, peeling paint.
Pretty. Instead, fairgoers in Carrollton will notice the midway and barn areas dotted with trash barrels sporting four-leaf clovers, stars, rainbows, sunbeams, flowers and trees.
The barrels are painted by Carroll County 4-H clubs and the works of art are judged against one another before the fair.
About 20 clubs participate each year and the groups produce around 25-30 newly minted trash barrels for every fair.
The 4-H’ers can paint as many trash barrels as they wish, but only two from each club can be entered in the judging contest. Categories include best 4-H promotional, most environmental, most health and fitness related and funniest. A best of show ribbon is also awarded.
Painting begins. The trash barrels are generally painted early in the summer so they are ready to go for the fair, which runs July 17-23 this year.
The motivation behind the trash barrel contest comes from Victoria Oboy, county extension 4-H youth development educator.
Oboy said she decorated trash barrels as a 4-H’er in Medina County and thought the idea was worth spreading.
“I thought, ‘what a cool idea,’ because the trash barrels were just barrels,” Oboy said.
The contest took root in Carroll County about 10 years ago and garnered about 12 entries during its debut fair.
If you’ve been to the fair and noticed the same friendly farm animals from year to year on the trash barrels, you aren’t seeing things. Not every barrel gets painted every year. Only the ones that need touched up get a new look.
Important lesson. But there’s more to the trash barrel contest than brightly colored paint and festive 4-H scenes. There’s also a lesson in environmental awareness.
Not only does it bring community cleanliness to the attention of 4-H’ers, it also reminds fairgoers that garbage belongs in the trash can, not on the ground.
“It’s kind of a keep-the-community-clean type thing,” Oboy said.
So when you toss the napkin from your hot sausage sandwich into the trash can this year, remember that somewhere, there’s a 4-H’er with paint dripping off his elbows, smiling as wide as the cow on the trash can.
(Reporter Janelle Skrinjar welcomes feedback by phone at 800-837-3419, ext. 22, or by e-mail at


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