West Side News

State fair to feature honey, bee-beard exhibit

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Ohio State Fair visitors should expect some buzz at a beekeeping exhibit, where a man will sport a beard of bees -- thousands of them.

Canal Winchester resident Barry Conrad will allow bees to gather along his chin and upper body to form a beard of bees at 1 and 4 p.m. Sunday, July 27 and Aug. 3, and at 1 p.m. Monday, July 28, at the Ohio State Fair's beekeeping exhibit outside the DiSalle Center, north of 17th Avenue.

"The average person is afraid of bees," Conrad said. "That's why we do the bee beard. We try to show how gentle they are. If you don't hurt them, they don't hurt you. It's to show bees are gentle if you respect them."

In addition to Conrad, other people will sport the bee beard daily at 1 p.m. at the exhibit sponsored by the Ohio State Beekeepers Association.

"What we're trying to do is educate the public about the importance of the honeybee," Conrad said. "One-third of our diet is directly dependent on honeybee pollination. Farmers have to have bees to pollinate. Bees are tremendously important to diet and our well-being. The honeybee is the most important pollinator to man."

Conrad has been involved with the educational display for 12 years, he said, first with the Ohio Farm Bureau and now with the beekeepers association.

He and his wife, Carmen, represent Conrad Hive & Honey of Canal Winchester.

"We've been involved 30 years in showing honey," he said. "We won best honey producers at the fair in 1999 and 2001. That's when we won the big stuff."

The exhibit will feature glass-encased observation hives.

"You can see bees working and the queen," Conrad said. "There will be a lot of educational exhibits there. Different vendors will sell honey each day. It rotates every day. Products of the hive will be sold."

In addition to the beekeepers exhibit, fair spokeswoman Alicia Shoults said, contests will involve honey production and baking with honey.

A family of beekeepers from Blacklick -- Michael and Teresa Parker and daughters Catherine and Francesca -- will enter projects in the fair.

Catherine, 14, said the whole family gets involved, and this year marks her first time entering honey at the state fair.

The Hartley High School student said she owns two of the family's six hives.

"One was a swarm and one was bought in a package," she said. "I'm entering honey, the light amber."

Carmen Conrad has judged honey at many county fairs, she said.

"What we look for is, what does a beekeeper bring to it?" she said. "We make sure there isn't anything in it that shouldn't be in it. What does the beekeeper bring to the honey? Are the jars proper and clean and is it filled properly? Has the honey been handled with care? That's what we look for. What has the beekeeper done properly?"

She said honey judges also use elaborate tools to measure the moisture content of the honey.

"There are seven different color classes of honey, and we make sure they enter in the proper color class," she said. "We taste every entry. We look to see if it has been overheated and does it have a medicinal taste that shouldn't be there. We look for tastes that don't belong in a honey. You taste it very much like wine."

Conrad has entered honey at the state and national levels, even receiving Best of Show at the Ohio State Fair in 2012.

She said her granddaughter, whom she mentored, won the title last year.

The Ohio State Fair runs July 23-Aug. 3. Admission gate hours are from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., excluding Aug. 3, when it closes at 8 p.m. General admission is $10 for adults and $8 for children ages 5 to 12 and senior citizens ages 60 and older. Guests could save $4 off gate admission prices through Aug. 3 at Kroger and participating AAA locations.

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