Barlow Fair marks 142nd anniversary

BARLOW – Thousands of people filled the Barlow Fairgrounds on Saturday to experience a traditional, old-fashioned fair.

“At 142 years and still going strong,” said fair board member Denise Tessum. “It’s a phenomenal thing – to have not only the same event, but also in many of the same buildings for so long.”

The Barlow Fair is currently the only independent fair of its size in Ohio and was founded with a purpose to encourage agricultural and mechanical arts as well as to aid area farmers. The first exhibition was held in September 1872 after 15 interested community members organized the Agricultural Society and chose the land for the fairgrounds.

“A lot has changed since we started, but there is a lot that has stayed the same,” Tessum said. “We are here for the farmers and to celebrate the history of not only the fair, but the Barlow community.”

A small piece of the fairgrounds’ early days still in use is the floral hall building, which was built in 1873 in time for the second Barlow Fair.

“The floral hall has been here from pretty much the beginning,” Tessum said. “But, it was quickly outgrown, so, the fair’s forefathers added on to it.”

The “T” addition was constructed in 1893 and now houses vendors while the original building continues to display flowers and crafts contributed to the fair by community members.

“Fairs used to be all about bringing the community together to show off the best of what they had, but now they are almost all commercial and about making money, but not Barlow,” said local historian Eldon Young, who has a display in the second floor of the fairgrounds’ octagonal two-story bandstand historical area.

The founding fathers of the Barlow Fair were Civil War veterans who returned home to their farms after the war and wanted to display what they were able to produce from their land, Tessum said.

Early exhibits at the fair included horse-drawn plows, side-hill plows, wheat drills, corn planters, post-hole diggers, fanning mills, stump extractors, wheelbarrows, pony carts and many styles of horse-drawn vehicles.

“When the Civil War veterans started the fair there weren’t large county or state fairs and they wanted their community to see what they and their children had raised or produced,” she said. “We continue that tradition by allowing adults to show their flowers and quilts and other goods while also working with the children to show off their prized items.”

Both the Future Farmers of America (FFA) and 4-H buildings are filled with agricultural boons from the children who participate, not only showing off their crops, but also their photography skills.

“We worked with the Warren High School photography class and asked them to take photos of agriculture to be displayed this year and they all turned out great,” Tessum said.

Fair board member Gary Newlen said he and his fellow board members pride themselves on the Barlow Fair’s traditional leanings with an emphasis on agriculture and community above outside vendors selling catalog items.

“A lot of people tell us our fair is like a homecoming and it really is,” Newlen said. “It’s a great place to see people you haven’t talked to in years and just sit down and reconnect.”

The final day of this year’s Barlow Fair begins at 8 a.m. today when gates open. A traditional Sunday church service will be held in the gazebo at 9:30 a.m.

Today’s schedule includes:

* 8 a.m.: Gates open

* 9:30 a.m.: Church with Dr. Lloyd Dennis (Gazebo)

* 10 a.m.: Open Horse Show; Speed Pull

* Noon: Crossroads Messengers (Main Stage)

* 1 p.m.: Kapple Family (Main Stage); Pedal Pull, next to Waterford FFA tent

* 2-3 p.m.: Keepin’ Time Dulcimer Band (Main Stage)