Ohioans can expect to enjoy deep-fried food, thrills and live music as the Ohio State Fair kicks off Wednesday. The festivities, which run through Aug. 5 at 717 E. 17th Ave., include all the classic fan favorites, as well as new additions.
To honor Ohio’s 2,200 dairy farms, the butter cow has been an Ohio State Fair tradition since the early 1900s. This year, artists — including lead sculptors Paul Brooke and Alex Balz — spent more than 400 hours in the 46-degree cooler on the state fairgrounds re-creating scenes from the classic film “A Christmas Story” — using 2,200 pounds of butter. The American Dairy Association Mideast group decided to highlight the film, filmed in Cleveland in 1983, to celebrate its 35-year anniversary. The sculptures were unveiled Tuesday in the Dairy Products Building at the Ohio Expo Center.
“Watching ‘A Christmas Story’ is a holiday tradition for people across the country, and we’re proud that it’s one that started right here in Ohio,” Jenny Hubble, senior vice president of communications for the dairy association, said.
Highlights include Ralphie in his bunny costume, Randy in his snowsuit, a Christmas tree with working lights and — of course — the iconic leg lamp. The butter cow, which is sculpted annually, stands nearby, overlooking her calf, whose tongue is stuck to a pole alongside Flick, Ralphie’s friend who was triple-dog-dared to lick a frozen flagpole.
“It’s a pleasure to be a part of something so many people enjoy,” said Balz, who has sculpted the fair’s butter sculptures for 19 years. “It’s always a fun thing for artists and dairy farmers and the people who come to the fair.”
Fairgoers also can enjoy new live entertainment options. With the price of admission, guests will hear live music while milling through the fairgrounds, but they also will be treated to concerts and new stunt shows with acrobats.
“It’s that very Americana, old-school vintage thrill entertainment you would expect to see at fairs, but don’t always do,” said Alicia Shoults, the fair’s marketing and public relations director.
The fair is also launching an 11-episode podcast series, with an episode released per day. Each episode will focus on a different aspect of the fair, such as history or livestock.
Thrill-seekers can head over to the midway and enjoy about 70 rides, four of which are new. Amusements of America is the ride vendor once again, but the Fire Ball — a ride that broke apart on opening day of the fair in 2017, killing one and injuring several others, some seriously — will not be returning. The company said increased safety measures are in place this year.
Fairs also mean a plethora of fried food. There are 195 food vendors at this year’s fair, offering everything from classic powdered-sugar funnel cakes to burgers wrapped in a doughnut bun. There are 27 categories of food that are deep-fried.
“It’s a great tradition,” Shoults said. “We have a lot of things everyone loves, and some new and different things we’re excited about.”
Originally published by The Columbus Dispatch July 24, 2018.