Hilliard kicks off Ohio’s fair season in early July

Get a savory taste of a traditional fair before the granddaddy Ohio State Fair takes over Columbus later this summer.

The Franklin County Fair in Hilliard, a suburb west of Columbus, is one of the earliest in the state’s fair season. It’s also one of the lengthiest, stretching eight days in July at the Franklin County Fairgrounds, 4100 Columbia St.

The Franklin County Fair dates to 1917, making it one of Ohio’s oldest county fairs.

The 80-acre fairgrounds come alive each year with the usual fair fixings, including candy apples, elephant ears, fresh-squeezed lemonade and Italian sausage sandwiches. The midway bustles with skill games and exhilarating rides.

More than 45,000 people attend the Franklin County Fair each year, says Melissa Brinkerhoff, who’s on the board of the Franklin County Agricultural Society, which runs the fair.

“It’s inexpensive and small enough that families with small kids and with strollers can easily get through it in a day,” Brinkerhoff said.

During a tour of the location a day before the fair started, I caught a glimpse of a horse named Andy, which Brinkerhoff’s son, Brad, shows through the 4-H program. Brad is one of more than 700 youngsters who will showcase animals including rabbits, goats, cows and sheep.

The fair also has a tractor pull and demolition derby, as well as ongoing entertainment including Nojoes Clown Circus and Jesse & James Mutts Gone Nuts Show, which features a cohort of rescue dogs.

A unique characteristic of the fairgrounds is an onsite historic village called Weaver Park that includes a log cabin, one-room schoolhouse, chapel, outhouse and covered bridge. It’s operated by the Northwest Franklin County Historical Society, which also is housed on the grounds. The society will be open from 1-7 p.m. each day of the fair, except July 24.

This year the society is proud to showcase its renovated 1923 C&O red caboose and 1800’s mobile voting booth.

“The villages make a great stop for families to have an impromptu picnic,” Brinkerhoff said of the grassy area surrounded by tall oak trees.

General admission to the fair is $6. Learn more at www.fcfair.org.