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Ohio State Fair isn’t moving, it’s just expanding, improving
 
By Doug Graves
Ohio Correspondent

COLUMBUS, Ohio – There has been lots of chatter and rumors floating around Columbus past year. The talk has been about relocating the Ohio State Fair.
The fair, which will be July 26-Aug. 6, has been at the Ohio Expo Center and State Fairgrounds on E. 17th Street since 1886. Though fair committee members would like to see renovations, or even a relocation of their 137-year-old fair, it’s not moving anytime soon.
“While we are incredibly hopeful that we will be embarking on some major facility improvements as part of the Expo 2050 Master Plan, there are no plans to move the Ohio State Fair at this time,” said Alicia Shoults, assistant general manager of the Ohio Expo Center and State Fair.
The Expo 2050 Master Plan framework, an effort led in part by Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, includes the renovation, modernization or demolition of several buildings, as well as construction of new parking garages and other improvements, such as improved access between the Expo Center and the nearby Ohio History Connection.
The first phase of the Master Plan would include the completion of a new gate entry on the north side of the grounds. The main entrance at the 11th Avenue gate would remain. The plan calls for underground infrastructure work, a new Ohio Showcase building, an open Town Square area, and a new Agriculture & Horticulture Building featuring the entire farm-to-fork experience. The renovations call for the Ohio Farm Bureau’s Land & Living Exhibit and the Taste of Ohio Café, with meals served by Ohio farmers.
“In fact, an analysis conducted by third-party experts as part of our Master Planning process found that the current fair site where we’ve been since 1886 continues to be the ideal location for the Ohio Expo Center and State Fair,” Shoults added.
While the location of the fair goes unchanged, Shoults said visitors can expect to see interesting changes from last year’s fair.
“There are always several new things to enjoy at each year’s Ohio State Fair,” Shoults said. “For the first time, both the Ohio History Center and Ohio Village will be open for free for all visitors of the fair, every day, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. We are fortunate to have such an amazing museum and historical site within the property, and will be making the site more accessible with shuttle drop-offs and pick-ups. In addition, we are offering free guided barn tours every day of the fair, as well as a unique antique tractor exhibit.”
The Ohio History Center embraces the present and shares with visitors much of Ohio’s past through thousands of old photos, artifacts and much more. The Ohio Village is intended to provide a firsthand view of life in Ohio during the American Civil War.
According to Shoults, some of more popular attractions include the Little Farmers hands-on agricultural education exhibit, the 8-acre Natural Resources Park, the Ohio Farm Bureau’s Land & Living exhibit, the Marvelous Mutts performing dog shows, shows by escape artist Lady Houdini, the famous butter cow in the Dairy Products Building, entertainment stages with live music and the petting zoo. All the above are free with general admission.
“The Ohio State Fair is growing,” Shoults said. “In 2022, we saw growth in many departments, including junior beef, junior dairy, junior sheep, junior swine, skillathon and overall growth for many species in open livestock shows.”
While it appears the Ohio State Fair will remain in the vicinity of E. 17th Street in Columbus, it made many stops across cities in Ohio before settling north of downtown Columbus. The fair’s first year took place in Columbus in 1851, on the site of Mt. Carmel Hospital. In 1852 it was moved to Cleveland, then to Dayton in 1853.
Newark was the site of the fair in 1854, before returning to Columbus in 1855. It was moved to Cleveland in 1856, Cincinnati in 1857, Sandusky in 1858 and Zanesville in 1859. From 1860-1873 the fair was held in Dayton, Cleveland, Columbus, Toledo, Springfield and Mansfield. From 1874-1885, the fair was held in Columbus, on the site of Franklin Park. Finally, in 1886, the fair found its permanent spot at the present Ohio Expo Center.
The first Ohio State Fair was planned for September 1849, but an outbreak of Asiatic cholera forced cancellation of those plans.
The Ohio State Fair has been canceled a few times throughout history, including during World War II (1942-1945). The grounds were used, instead, for handling airplane parts and equipment for the war. This fair also closed its doors in 2020 during the global COVID-19 pandemic.
5/23/2023