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Montgomery Fair trades in Dayton for rural Ohio park

DAYTON, Ohio — “New Beginnings. New Memories” – that was the theme of this year’s Montgomery County Fair near Dayton, as the 166th fair departed from 37 acres just south of downtown and took root on 130 acres about 15 miles west of its longstanding location.

The new location is at 645 Infirmary Road, which abuts Judge Arthur O. Fisher Park in Jefferson Township.

While the old fairgrounds near downtown Dayton had history – including visits from presidents, the Wright Brothers, famous astronauts and sports celebrities – the new fairgrounds offers room for the fair to expand.

“We know this is a place for new traditions, and we hope those traditions continue for many years,” John Yancik, president of the Montgomery County Agricultural Society, said at the fair’s opening ceremony.

New barns, fresh pavement and large flat landscape were the results of a $15 million investment and 10 months of construction in Infirmary Road west of Dayton.

Michael McLaughlin, a Jefferson Township administrator, said the development is the best thing to happen to the rural township, as the space can be used for more than just the fair.

“We’re a diamond in the rough,” he said. “The fair offers a chance for agricultural and urban aspects of Montgomery County to come together, and to show off the hard work of farmers and children who raise animals.”

“County and independent fairs are the best things agriculture has going for it,” Ohio Department of Agriculture Director David Daniels said at the opening ceremony.

“It was time for a new venue, as the old one ran its course,” added Don Michael, 78. “Beginning with my father, our family has shown animals at the old fairgrounds for 100 years precisely, so with my grandchildren showing animals, now I guess we’ll start on the next 100 years.”

There was no shortage of exhibitors who were ecstatic about the new venue, including Miamisburg 4-H siblings Ivy, Isaiah and Eden Alsept. “The new space is an improvement over the old location,” Ivy said. “It’s a lot bigger. We have a lot more space now and we actually have a whole barn to ourselves.”

In addition to the extra space, the buildings also have better airflow to keep people and the animals cool.

“This year, there’s 31 rides, nine more than last year,” said John Friedline, a board member for the Montgomery County Agricultural Society, last month. “Also new this year are helicopter and balloon rides. We are hoping for a record attendance of 75,000 at the new fairgrounds."

The previous location was quite hilly and made access by wheelchair or walkers treacherous. “It’s all flat; just more accessible to everybody. The fair guests, I think, are going to enjoy themselves better, just because it’s just so much easier to get around.”

At the old location fair animals were kept in separate barns. The new fair offers more space for them under one roof, as well as large ceiling fans to keep the air circulating. There are two new air-conditioned buildings on-site. One is a 26,000 square-foot events center that serves as the exhibit hall; the other serves as a barn for livestock being shown.

“What an improvement!” said Katy Sinclair of West Carrollton. “It’s just more spacious. We show rabbits and at the old structure, the paint chips were falling from the ceiling of the old barns. The old horse stables and the old wooden grandstands back on Main Street in Dayton were fire hazards.”

“In with the new and out with the old,” laughed Terry Barstow of Kettering. “I will miss the old charm of the old structures back near downtown Dayton, and I was kind of sad for the closing of the old place, but this seems so much better. I’m really surprised at how nice it is.”

“There is enough room for nearly 2,000 parking spots,” Friedline said. “Everyone’s commented on how nice the fairgrounds and the parking is. We’re not going to have near the issues that we had downtown on parking. It’s a win-win for the whole community.”

Sites in Vandalia, Brookville and Huber Heights were scouted but ultimately found to be unsuitable or ran into lukewarm reception. Trotwood also pushed to be a location for the fair, but the fair board did not pursue that option.