Johnstown Independent

Mud but no mud run

Bennington Chapel entrance to fair hinges on drier weather

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Those who are looking forward to using Bennington Chapel Road as an access road to "the biggest little fair in the world" might have to look further forward if the area gets any additional rainfall.

Hartford Fair manager Larry Hughes said he should know by July 20 whether this year's fair, which opens Aug. 3, will be able to offer a new entrance/exit to Bennington Chapel Road.

"We're hoping so," he said while looking over a vast muddy area that's supposed to be the new access.

He said 18 consecutive days of rain have delayed construction significantly. If the weather becomes drier before Aug. 3, he said, chances are good that the access would be ready. But if the rain pattern continues, it likely wouldn't be.

Ironically, the planned new access forced the fair to cancel the annual mud run this year until a new space is found for the event.

Hughes said traffic on the new access would be too close to where the mud run has been held. The mud run will be back in future years, he said, but in a new location.

Hughes said it's too late to try to organize the mud run for this year if the new entrance/exit is not ready for opening day.

Some people expressed sorrow over the mud run cancellation, he said, but it couldn't be helped this year.

Hughes said fair management had been receiving complaints about being stuck in traffic for hours following a concert or event, and some said they wouldn't return to the fair.

The new Bennington Chapel Road entrance is expected to solve that problem, and he's really hoping for dry weather over the next few weeks.

Hughes said hundreds of tons of gravel and large rollers are at the ready as soon as the ground dries for a day or two.

He said the 155th annual fair will run Aug. 3-10 and include an additional day -- Saturday, Aug. 3 -- when admission and entertainment will be free to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Jr. Fair.

"We're just trying to celebrate the 4-H program," he said.

Rain or shine, the Licking County 4-H has been working hard and is ready for the fair to begin.

"It's coming up all too quickly," said Lisa McCutcheon, extension educator for 4-H youth development.

She said some of the non-livestock entries already are being judged and many will be displayed at the 4-H facility on the fairgrounds.

McCutcheon said the youth who participate in the livestock events had their livestock weighed and tagged in January.

Senior Fair board members begin planning for the next fair "a few weeks after the last one," and Jr. Fair board members, who generally belong to 4-H and the Future Farmers of America, were chosen in December.

"They are a tremendous group of young leaders," McCutcheon said, adding that they usually range in age from 15 to 19 and are strictly volunteers.

This year's entertainment includes country music acts Love and Theft, Dustin Lynch and The Lee Gantt Band.

According to Hartford Fair history, agriculture has been stressed through the years, along with the promotion of 4-H and youth activities. The Licking County Jr. Fair was added to the program in 1938. Since then, the majority of the growth has been with youth organizations and centered on their activities.

The Hartford Fair has one of the largest Jr. Fair programs in Ohio. The 4-H Clubs are increasing to include the urban and farm youth.

In 1948 Licking County had the first 4-H Band. It was organized by Lenora McLeish and is housed on the grounds the entire week, performing at various events each day.

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