BELMONT COUNTY — The sprawling Belmont County Fairgrounds have been in place since 2010, and offers an impressive facility to host a county fair. Since moving from the interior of St. Clairsville, the fair has had more elbow room— now they’re hoping to capitalize on that in the near future. In the past few years, a string of bad luck has dampened sales, a streak Malissa Cambell, treasurer of the fair board, is hoping to break.
"Over last several years, we’ve lost money putting the fair on," Cambell said. "Weather isn’t always our best friend."
The board utilizes the grounds throughout the year to make up for the losses, but the admission price to the fair has risen from $8 to $10 in an effort to turn a profit at the 169th Belmont County Fair.
"Our goal isn’t to make excessive money, but to break even," Cambell said. "Entertainment isn’t cheap."
The entertainment at the fair comes in many forms, one of them being the Swifty Swine Pig Races. A new addition to the collection of attractions, four pigs will launch out of a gate and speed to the finish line. The star of the show, Swifty, also swims across a water tank for the pleasure of the crowd. Jared and Kelsie Hollenbec, the owners of the business, jump from fairground to fairground across the heartland, entertaining as they go. Jared Hollenbec said that the people in Belmont County remind him of his native Texas.
"In California, it was weird — they stare a lot," Hollenbec said. "They don’t understand what you mean when you’re polite. Ohio feels like home, you guys just have different accents."
Another new feature of the fair is a new ride supplier, Deshler Amusement. Cambell said the decision to hire them came from shared values.
‘They’re very family oriented, and the fair becomes a family tradition" Cambell said. "If you go down and look at the barns, you’ll see generations of fair families."
The families she’s talking about flutter in and out of the barns from showing to showing. Two girls, Ladyn and Scout Hines, are some of the youngest of the fairgoers. Both still in single digits, the girls say they love the fair, especially the animals. They have cows themselves at home.
"I named mine Oreo," Scout Hines said. "Know why? Because it looks like an Oreo."
When the girls said the animals were by far their favorite fair attractions, a nearby woman smiled and called them cowgirls. That sense of community was apparent throughout the fair, and the reason Cambell and the board want to expand what the fair has to offer.
The improvement they’re looking for, Cambell said, was for children like the Hines’.
"It’s about growth," she said. "My own children grew up here, it was a big impact in their life. They learn a lot of skills, and it’s great watching kids move out of programs and into successful fields."