It is perhaps fitting that Ohio's oldest continuously run county fair is also, annually, the very last of the state's county fair circuit.
Steeped in history, the Fairfied County Fair is an autumnal tradition which beckons tens of thousands to the historic white-washed grounds at the base of Lancaster's Mt. Pleasant, hovering some 300 feet above the festivities.
It's where the crisp fall air meets crispier elephant ears, and where people from all walks of life convene for one last chance to savor a quintessential Ohio experience before the arrival of the chill of winter.
The 162nd Fairfield County Fair, 157 E. Fair Ave., in Lancaster, will run from noon Sunday, Oct. 7 through Saturday evening, Oct. 13, culminating with that penultimate event -- the auto demolition derby.
Admission is free on opening day. For all other days, admission is $5 for those 10 years old and older. Oct. 10, seniors get in for $2 with a Golden Buckeye Card.
Gates open Sunday, Oct. 7, at noon. For the rest of the fair, gates open daily at 7 a.m.
According to Fair Director Jim Marcinko, the theme of this particular fair remains the same every year.
"Always save the best for last, that's the way we look at it," said Marcinko, who estimated 100,000 to 125,000 people "will come through the gates."
He said he expects the fair to draw attendees from throughout the Buckeye state and beyond, especially for one of the main draws, the Oak Ridge Boys concert at 7:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 8, in the grandstand.
"That's a real big thing and we have quite a few seats left," said Marcinko, who added the popular country-gospel chart-toppers are bringing in fans from as far away as Oklahoma and Missouri. Tickets are $15 for grandstand and $20 for track seating.
Marcinko said an equally anticipated event is harness racing, which this year has been reduced to three days of racing instead of the usual four.
"It's one of our bigger events, but this year we cut back to three days due to a lack of horses," he said.
"The number of (race) horses in Ohio has been declining (and) we tried to head this off as long as we could.
"It is a betting event and people kind of enjoy that, it's a way to gamble and have some fun."
Harness racing is Wednesday at 1 p.m., Thursday at 2 p.m., and Friday at 1 p.m. Saturday is reserved as a rain date.
Marcinko said the auto demolition derby attracts large crowds.
This year it will be on both Friday and Saturday night at 7:30 p.m., in the grandstand, and requires reserved tickets - which cost $5 for the grandstand and $6 for the bleachers.
He said an unusual take on that event will be the free Combine Farm Implement Demolition Derby at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 11, also in the grandstand. Ten 10 combines will compete against each other.
"They don't have the corn heads on them, (but) they smash into each other and the last one wins," he said.
Marcinko said a free event in the grandstand that also consistently draws well is the truck and tractor pulls, which are set for 7 p.m. Wednesday.
The truck pull is part of the Central Ohio Truck Pull Circuit. In addition, he said there is also a horse pull, an ATV pull, kiddie pedal pull and mule races, all in the grandstand at various times throughout the week.
He said the High School Band Parade, open to all Fairfield County schools, (at 9:15 a.m. Oct. 11 in the grandstand) is "always packed with friends and family."
Marcinko said the rich agricultural heritage of Fairfield County is exemplified by numerous events held throughout the week, ranging from animal breeding shows and auctions (rabbits, poultry, sheep, dairy calves, hogs, goats, etc.), cooking and produce competitions, and flower shows and Grange exhibits.
He said there will be no shortage of "the fabulous fair food" people have come to expect every year as well.
Some of the fairgrounds' buildings took a direct hit from thunderstorms in late June and early July, particularly the Art Hall, which suffered some damage to its foundation but is now serviceable, Marcinko said.
"We have still got some repairs we're working on, but we'll finish them after the fair," he said.
The fairgrounds boast several buildings that are more than 100 years old, including the unique round cattle barn, built in 1904.
The historical significance of the place is not lost on Joyce Harvey, an historian with the Fairfield Heritage Association.
"They had one of the first nighttime races lit with natural gas," she said of the fairgrounds.
"In the late 1880s, they were drilling for natural gas all over town and drilled a well on the fairgrounds in July of 1889," Harvey said.
"They piped it and then laid pipe all around the race track. They claimed it was the first lit race at night. It's pretty amazing."
Harvey said there is also a race horse buried at the track, marked by a headstone from 1891.
The horse, named "Edinburgh," was a 7-year old gelding that collapsed and died after he won an important race. He was buried in the infield and the horse's tombstone still stands to this day.
For a complete listing of all events and activities, go to fairfieldcountyfair.org.