A parade, concert, auction and fireworks will kick off the Hartford Fair's Sesquicentennial Celebration on Saturday, Aug. 2, including free admission on that day.

A parade, concert, auction and fireworks will kick off the Hartford Fair's Sesquicentennial Celebration on Saturday, Aug. 2, including free admission on that day.

Before the official opening of the fair, a 2008 Hartford queen and king will be crowned on Friday night at 7 p.m. in the pavilion.

Candidates are Caitlyn Dever of Johnstown-Monroe High School, Ashleigh Dick, Jessica Johnson of Northridge High School, Kelsey Keener and Jessica Park.

King candidates are Ryan Edgington, Cory McLaughlin, Drew Neilley and Logan Stafford.

On Saturday, the official opening kicks off with a parade and auction beginning at 5:30 p.m. at the grandstand.

As of Thursday, fair officials said those who have registered for the parade include the Licking County Sheriff's Department, which will have an honor guard, the 4-H band, fair royalty, horse-drawn carriage by Patty Smith of All Occasion Carriage and Pony Rides from St. Louisville, the Licking County Bicentennial Committee, Postle family of Hebron, Imperial Stunt Drivers, Liberty 4-H of Pataskala, Classic Tractors, many politicians and fair officials.

An auction will follow the parade and offer 150th anniversary memorabilia, including two-gallon crocks, butter churns and baskets. Fair Board Director Karen Debolt said auctions that follow the grand opening sale will provide two of each item up for bid.

"The small animal sale will be the last of each item," she said.

Following the auction, local favorites Phil Dirt & the Dozers will perform beginning at 8:30 p.m. in the grandstand.

Hartford office manager Cindy Twyford said the band has a definite local following.

Steve Cabot is a founding member of Phil Dirt & The Dozers. He plays guitar, percussion, keyboards, sax and drums, and he's known to emulate the vocal styles of such artists as Roy Orbison, Mike Love of the Beach Boys and Frankie Vali. Other band members are Mark Frye, Tony Alfano, Craig Goodwin, Hadden Sayers and Tony McClung.

Following the concert, the fairgrounds will be lit up with its first-ever fireworks display.

On Sunday, Aug. 3, registration will be from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. for the Car Show to be held at centerfield. Dash plates will be given to the first 100 cars to register.

Exhibitors can only enter Gate C, and the vehicles will be parked on the grass inside the north end of the race track.

If cars don't spark any interest for some fairgoers, a chocolate cake contest will be offered beginning at 2 p.m. at the fair pavilion and an ice cream eating contest begins at 4 p.m. north of the campgrounds.

The cake contest requires no pre-entry and is open to everyone. First prize is $50; second, $25 and third, $15. Judging will be based on taste and appearance, and all entries are made available for tasting by the audience.

Registration begins at 3 p.m. for the ice-cream eating contest. There's a limit of 50 participants, with $25 going to the winner of each contest. The Licking County Farm Bureau is sponsoring the contest and providing a T-shirt to every participant.

Other Sunday activities include: a 12:30 p.m. corn hole tournament in the Farm Zone; fishing with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources from 3 to 6 p.m. at the Natural Resources Park; Pedal Tractor Pull at 6 p.m. at the Hog Complex; and the 4-H band from 6:15 to 7 p.m. at the Tara amphitheatre.

Sunday's activities will conclude with a concert by country music star Tracy Lawrence at 8:30 p.m. in the grandstand.

Lawrence was named Billboard's Top New Male Vocalist in 1992, garnering the same honor from the Academy of Country Music a year later. His hits include "Time Marches On," "Can't Break My Heart" and "If the World Had a Front Porch." Reserved seats cost $15 on the track, while grandstand seating is free of charge. To order tickets, call 740-893-4881.

Debolt said Lawrence is a big name to bring to the Hartford Fair.

The fair board tripled its budget this year to celebrate the 150th and provide such quality entertainment, Debolt said.

Twyford said past fair entertainers who later became popular include Kenny Chesney, Willie Nelson, the Mandrell Sisters and Brad Paisley, among others.

A complete schedule for the Hartford Fair can be found at www.hartfordfair.com.

General admission costs $5 for those age 8 and over and $3 for senior citizens on Monday, Aug. 4.

The fair continues through Saturday, Aug. 9.

mkuhlman@thisweeknews.com