The Hartford Fair kicks off in Croton on Sunday with a beer garden

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A beer garden will open for the first time at the Hartford Independent Fair in Croton this week.

“The World’s Greatest Little Fair” is set to open Sunday, with a full return to normal after a COVID-related cancellation of all but junior fair events statewide in 2020.

Fair director Rod Arter said “it’s a different feeling” to see a return to normalcy for the fair after the previous two years during the COVID pandemic.

“We had a pretty full fair last year. We lost a few exhibitors and entries because some people were still a little skeptical,” Arter said. “All of our registrations appear to be back to normal, as well as all of our referrals.”

Among the biggest changes to the fair this year, he said, is the opening of a beer garden behind the large stands in the evening. He noted that people can carry beer on about half of the race track, in mid-rise and commercial buildings, but beer will not be allowed in barns or 4-H areas. Arter added that the fair will feature four types of beer and seltzer.

According to Arter, Intel also sponsored a premium bank for the show. He explained that if someone shows cattle and makes money, the fair has a bank at the fairgrounds and will pay the junior fair member in cash. Arter said all of that money would come from Intel.

Lisa McCutcheon, extension educator for the 4-H Youth Development Program at Ohio State University’s Licking County Extension, said that while their programs were back in full swing last year, this year they will be in full swing as before the pandemic. She said they expect a much better turnout at this year’s fair.

Of the townships in Licking, Delaware and Knox counties that are included in the Hartford Fair District, McCutcheon said they had some 1,700 junior exhibitors this year.

“I think they’re really excited. For many of our exhibitors, this is their first week. Not only can they exhibit and show off their hard work, but they can spend time with family and friends,” said McCutcheon, adding many people camp at the fair, many exhibitors will be spending the entire week at the fair.

McCutcheon encouraged people to check the fair’s schedule and figure out a time when they can visit and see what the fair has to offer. She said their children put in a lot of time and work all year, whether they show up in the cattle or project barns. She said there was plenty to see beyond food, rides and entertainment.

Last year, the Hartford fair held only six days of rides due to staffing issues for the rides company. Arter said this year, the fair’s board has hired a new ride company and will offer rides every seven days.

This fair marks Arter’s first fair as a director, although he had previously been a member of the fair’s board of directors for 28 years and before that he had been an electrician for many years. Arter said he has committed to serve as the fair’s director for the next five years.

During his tenure, Arter said he hoped to bring The Hartford Fair to the next generation. He hopes to start by offering admission tickets online.

“We try to make things easier and more comfortable for visitors, he explained.

According to Arter, his father also served as the fair’s manager before. Arter said he grew up involved in the fair and took over his father’s board seat when he died.

“The fair is in my blood, there’s no doubt about it,” he said.

The Hartford Fair is also participating in a “store the trailer” contest. People can participate by bringing non-perishable food items to the Hartford Fair for the Licking County Pantry. Financial donations are also accepted, with this money being used to purchase groceries.

Food and donations can be dropped off in the stock trailer, located at the front of Grubb Arena or at the Junior Fair Board Office at the Hartford Fair.

Hartford Fair Details

Some of the fair’s major events include:

  • Lumberjack competition on Sunday noon in the large stands.
  • Draw of old tractors at 8 a.m. Monday in the large bleachers.
  • Six Two Auto Cross at 7:30 p.m. Monday in the grandstands.
  • Smash IT Demolition Derby at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday in the Grand Stands.
  • Monster Truck at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday in the grandstands.
  • Fast Traxx Motorcross at 7:30 p.m. Thursday in the grandstands.
  • Rough Truck at 7:30 p.m. Friday in the grandstands.
  • Harnessed races on Saturday lunchtime in the main stands.
  • Dash for Cash open barrel at 3:00 p.m. Saturday in the Equestrian Arena.
  • Midwest Championship Horse Pull at 7 p.m. Saturday in the grandstands.

Admission to the fair will cost $8 Sunday through Saturday for people nine and older. Tickets will be $3 on Mondays for seniors and veterans between 7 a.m. and 4 p.m. Children 8 and under are free.

Cash only will be accepted at the doors. Rides are not included in the admission price. For more information on the Hartford Fair, visit their website at HartfordFair.com.

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