Croton resident Mary Ann Arter has a soft spot in her heart for the Hartford Fair.

Croton resident Mary Ann Arter has a soft spot in her heart for the Hartford Fair.

Arter, who will serve as grand marshal of the Aug. 2 opening parade, has attended each day of the fair for all of her 83 years.

When she was only 16, she began working at the fairgrounds, where her father Clell Sinkey served as fair secretary.

Later, her husband, the late Bill Arter, worked as fair secretary for 40 years.

"You aren't involved in something as long as I have been with the fair and not have a soft spot," she said. "We got to know so many people from all over the county. Seeing them is what the fair means to me."

Over the years, Arter became close friends with the Fleenors, who were with the Hurricane Hell Drivers. Driver Danny Fleenor has passed away, but Arter remains in touch with his wife Joy.

"I got attached to some of the entertainers," she said. "We were friends with Bill and Helen Scott from Channel 4 in Columbus. I've lost track of them. We got close to those people who came every year."

Arter believes her husband had a big impact on the Hartford Fair because of his longevity as secretary.

"He was the first from an independent fair to serve with the Ohio Fair Manager's Association," she said. "Rod (Arter's son) is on that now, holding the same position where his dad started."

The 4-H youth are what Arter enjoys the most about the Hartford Fair.

"There's no better sight than to see a kid come out with their first blue ribbon or trophy," she said.

Of all the past fairs she has attended, Arter said the Centennial Celebration stands out in her memory.

"All the men grew beards," she said. "The whole community got into it. There were a lot of activities for the Centennial. That would be one of the outstanding ones."

Arter, a 1943 graduate of Hartford High, got drafted to work as a clerk for the fair's harness racing program. It's a job she continues today.

"They didn't have anyone else," she said. "I've done that for 35 years; that's a guess. I do enjoy the harness racing."

Arter is not only the daughter and wife of former fair secretaries, but she and her husband lived on the fairgrounds from 1976 to 2004.

"When the hubbub is going on, you get immune to it," she said.

The biggest change at the Hartford Fair was when electricity was added in 1938. The following year, in 1939, the first grandstand event was held under the lights.

"Another big change was when they annexed the junior fair," Arter said. "There was a Licking County Fair that moved around and they couldn't make ends meet. It moved here in 1938."

Arter believes the Hartford Fair would rank at the top in appearance and quality compared to other Ohio fairs.

"Being an independent fair helps," she added. "I think that has a lot to do with it. The word independent means a lot in a lot of respects. You get more cooperation from people and businesses."

Arter is currently working on a history of the Hartford Fair for her family.

"I wrote a family history for my children, then I decided to write a fair history," she said. "I decided to go through the fair minutes. It's a larger project than I anticipated."

The task has taken her two years so far, and the 150-page document is still growing.

"It has been interesting," she said. "I still have minutes to go through."

From minutes Arter has already read, she learned that her grandfather Charles Sinkey dug, by hand, the pond on the inside of the fairground's racetrack.

"He was paid $38 to build that in the 1900s," she said. "He may have had a team of horses to move the dirt."

Arter said she's looking forward to all the special events at the 150th anniversary.

"All the planned special festivities are exciting me," she said. "It's an honor to be the parade grand marshal for the anniversary. I was very shocked to be chosen, because I was grand marshal in 1992."

Arter is the mother of seven children: April Crowe, of West Virginia; Cindy Twyford, Hartford fair office manager who lives in Croton; Steve Arter, of Centerburg; Tracy Arter, of Sunbury; and Rod Arter, Alyce Williams and Beth Rowley, all of Croton.

She also has 16 grandchildren and 22 great-grandchildren.