A Family Vacation to the Ohio State Fair

The Ohio State Fair is happening in Columbus through August 5th.  My kids and I were invited to attend the fair to learn about the agriculture in Ohio. We left having a perfect mini vacation and looking forward to returning next year.

While I had been to Cuyahoga County’s fair when I was younger I had never been to the State Fair. From attending county fairs, I knew that there would be animals and demonstrations but I wasn’t prepared for all I learned while I was there.

Me and Brutus O-H...!

Me and Brutus O-H...!

Butter cows and dairy cows

As soon as we walked through the gates I noticed the signage for the Butter Cow. I had heard of butter sculptures on the news but I felt like I needed to see it for myself. Unfortunately, I was running late to meet my host Jennifer so I had to bypass it...for now.  

Instead of Butter Cows, I ended up being surrounded by real cows.  My host Jennifer and the group I was joining were at the Voinovich Livestock Center.  First let me just say I was surprised to see how big the building was and secondly I was a little shocked that there were actual buildings, not what I imagined or remembered from past fair experiences.

At the Voinovich Center, it was all about beef.  In fact, when I arrived I was given a tote bag that said “I    beef.” The center had exhibits, and activities for kids and a putt-putt course.  There was also a beef store where you could buy items like beef jerky and a lot of other beef swag such as shirts, key chains, and bags.

Finally, we were taken to the cows, the real ones, which were in a separate part of the building.  At this point, my kids ditched me to go exploring. I guess they are not cow people. I didn’t realize that there were different types of cows. The cows were groups together by type so the Angus cows were together, the dairy cows were together and so on.  There were large fans to keep the cows and the cool. From where I stood I could see that there was a large indoor arena and bleachers a few cows rows away. I learned that is used for judging and exhibiting the cows.

Soybeans and Christmas Tree Farms

After leaving the Voinovich Center, we walked to the Nationwide Donahey Agriculture and Horticulture building (we’ll call it the A&H building).  As soon as we arrived I gained a little perspective. While I know that there is farmland in Ohio, living in Cleveland makes it easy to forget how much of the state is farmland and how many people are farmers. As we walked Jennifer told us how her son was competing in different 4-H competitions and there were lots of people tending to their animals or crops. 

There was much to see at the A&H building. There were live chicks, and hay mazes for the kids to ride through, there was information on Ohio’s pork industry and giveaways.  We stopped at the Soybean booth where we learned from a lady that worked for the Ohio Soybean Council. We learned about GMOs and how many foods that are labeled organic in grocery stores are not allowed to be processed or be genetically modified (save your money, do your research) I learned how silos are filled and got to take a virtual tour of a soybean farm.

After racing my winning pink pig at Soybean booth we were able to explore the other booths in the building.  There was a large stage where speakers presented on various topics and a space full of Christmas trees. Looking out of place I decided to take a closer look.  I found out that the trees were on display as part of a competition. The tree came from various Christmas tree farms across the state, and the winning tree would compete in a national contest.  The winning farm from that contest gets to supply the National tree in Washington DC.

Butt Fries

Butt Fries

The Food

Before leaving Jennifer and the group we were told we were waiting on our pork sandwiches for lunches.  For some reason I was expecting a Pulled Pork Sandwich, so I was a little shocked to recieve a little porkchop on a hambuger bun.  I cannot say enough about this sandwich. It was moist and perfectly cooked and I realized that I had been missing out.

After the sandwich I joined my kids who of course we hungry.  The Ohio State Fair had hooked us up by giving us coupons to sample different food but there were so many options. There was fried EVERYTHING, Twinkies, Oreos, tacos and Pop-Tarts just to name a few. There were burgers made with Krispy Cream buns, and something called Butt Fries that my kids just had to try.

This was definitely not the place to try to eat healthy. I thought about how citified I was, worrying about red meat and pork, skim milk vs whole milk and looking for a small salad.  At the fair, I realized many Ohioans eat what they raised so they didn't worry about where their food was coming from or what the animals were fed. 

The Rides

Rides are not included in the admission cost but there are definitely rides for everyone. The rides took me back to the good old days of Geauga Lake.  As I walked around the Mountain Dew Midway with my kids I felt like I had been transported back in time. Although the rides had different names I pointed out to the kids what I remembered the rides to be like the Music Express, Tilt A Whirl and Batman (from the Six-Flags years).

The Entertainment

From the moment we arrived, we noticed musicians, performers and other acts performing and interacting with fairgoers.  There was a one-man band who was rocking out, a very large robot and a person dressed in a very realistic plant costume and pot.

Time for a break. A plant takes it's pot for a walk

Time for a break. A plant takes it's pot for a walk

I was completely won over by the fair. More importantly my kids, my teenagers, smiled, got along and enjoyed the fair. In fact, they left saying they want to go back next year. I enjoyed learning about all the foods that are grown in our state.  It also made me rethink some of my eating habits and food shopping habits. By the way, I did get to see the dairy cow and to my surprise, they had a whole Christmas Story display made out of butter (Cleveland representing).

A buttery taste of Cleveland

A buttery taste of Cleveland

Finally, it was nice to meet people that farm, take pride in their crops and live a different lifestyle than I’m used to living in Cleveland.  I am so thankful to Jennifer and the Ohio State Fair for showing us Buckeye hospitality as well as providing us with tickets to give away to our readers.

Want to see more photos for my trip to the fair? Head over to our photos.