By Lenny C. Lepola
The 156th Annual Hartford Independent Fair opens Aug. 3 and runs Aug. 9.
For the uninitiated, the Hartford Fair is one of seven independent fairs in Ohio. Billed as “The BIGGEST Little Fair in the World,” year after year the event draws record crowds.
The Hartford Independent Agricultural Society, also known as the Hartford Fair, is located in the northwest corner of Licking County. It’s a unique fair in comparison to other Ohio fairs. It incorporates directors from Licking, Delaware and Knox counties.
Because Licking County does not have a county fair, the Hartford Junior Fair includes exhibitors from all of Licking County and portions of Delaware and Knox counties. Delaware County exhibitors come from Harlem, Trenton, Porter and Berkshire townships.
Each day from Sunday through the following Saturday, the Hartford Fair offers a full schedule of events. Future Farmers of America and 4-H members show projects and sell project animals; multiple venues feature music, racing, contests for children, educational displays and other family-oriented activities.
Each evening the fairground grandstand offers free entertainment.
“This year we changed the opening night grandstand lineup,” said Fair secretary Larry Hughes. “We dropped the school bus race and moved the figure-eight pickup race to Wednesday with the demolition derby. On opening Sunday, we’ll have a pickup pull starting at 6 p.m. — three classes of diesel, two classes of gas. That’s something a lot of fairs are doing.”
On Aug. 4, the grandstand features Cole Swindell. Drew Baldridge opens at 6:30 p.m., and at 8 p.m. Natalie Stovall and the Drive takes over. Swindell comes onstage at 9:30 p.m.
At 7:30 p.m. Aug. 5, the Grandstand features an OSTPA Championship Truck and Tractor Pull.
For those anxious to get out on the track, or watch their friends go for the gold, at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 6, the Grandstand features the ever popular Demolition Derby; Fast Traxx Motocross Racing is the featured event at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 7.
Aug. 8, features a 7:30 p.m. Rough Truck Contest; and Grandstand events begin to wind down at 7:30 p.m. on Aug. 9, with a Championship Horse Pull.
Of special note, at 7 p.m. Aug. 2, the Hartford Fair King and Queen Contest will be held at the Pavilion. While the fair is not officially open Saturday evening, some food vendors will be open and folks are free to walk the fairgrounds while waiting to see who will be this year’s fair royalty.
“The Hartford Independent Fair is a family-friendly fair,” Hughes said. “4-H kids are the best kids in the world, and we’re here for the kids. We’ve had people talk to us about selling alcohol during the Hartford Fair, but as long as I’m here and the current board of directors is here that’s never going to happen. We want to maintain a family-friendly atmosphere.”
Hughes said last years Hartford Fair attendance topped 220,000; if the weather holds this year should be even better. He also noted that the loyalty of concessionaires is another indicator of the Hartford Fair’s growing popularity.
“We have a lot of concessionaires come here who don’t live in Licking County, but they call this their home fair,” Hughes said. “We have a waiting list for concessions. There’s very little turnover in our concessions because these folks come back year after year.”
Asked to sum up the Hartford Independent Fair in one sentence, Hughes said, “We think it’s the best kept secret in Ohio.”
For a complete schedule of events, visit www.hartfordfair.com and click on Schedule.
The Hartford Fair is located at 14028 Fairgrounds Road, Croton. General Gate Admission is $6 from Sunday through Saturday. Admission is free for children 7 and under. Admission does not include the price of rides. Senior Citizens can enter for $3 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m Aug. 4.
Admission is also free on Aug. 2 for the 7 p.m. Hartford Fair King & Queen Contest at the fairgrounds Pavilion.
Parking is free, but a week-long preferred parking pass is available for $20. As always at The Hartford Independent Fair, all grandstand events are free on a first come, first serve basis.