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Youth experience show rings and show biz at this year’s state fair

This past Friday at the Ohio State Fair, I was walking from livestock barn to livestock barn when I heard an odd announcement over the loud speaker. The person on the public address system said people should go to a particular stage on the grounds at 11 a.m. if they wanted to be part of a “major motion picture.”

Needless to say, that’s not your typical fair announcement. However, I was busy and figured there was some odd catch involved and continued on with my tasks of taking livestock show pictures and gathering results.

A couple hours later, I happened to walk into the Voinovich Livestock Center just as John King, superintendent of the beef shows, was making yet another odd announcement. He was thanking those in the barn for their patience, assistance and cooperation with police and fire officials during this “historical occasion” in the beef barn.

My first fear was that some animal rights radical had done something crazy in the barn, and the question was what exactly was the fallout? When King finished, I immediately went up to him and asked what his announcement was all about.

“Oh, you haven’t seen them?” he asked. “No? Well, let me show you.”

He then led me outside and explained how throughout the day and previous day, film crews shooting a Hollywood, big budget film on the State Fairgrounds had been filming scenes in and around the beef barn. They had even gotten youth beef exhibitors to volunteer for scenes, where they mimicked fitting cattle and doing other fair-related tasks.

“Many exhibitors got into it as extras under the viaduct pretending to do work,” King said. “It’s a neat part of history at the Ohio State Fair to have something like this going on. We created exhibitors, covered up a pile of mulch with straw, made sure exhibitors didn’t get run over — we just helped orchestrate it.  ”

Once out the back of the Voinovich building, King pointed over toward the viaduct, and there by the edge sat a fire department vehicle with members of a camera crew swirling around it in the midst of filming a scene. King led me to Jimi Woods, who was location manager and first assistant director for the movie, who was buzzing with energy as he bounced between the cameraman, lighting people and directing extras moving by in the background of the scene being shot.

In this case, the scene was just a setting shot with actor Wendell Pierce portraying a fire chief sitting in his command vehicle at the Ohio State Fair, as scenes of the fair played out in the background. The crew was one of three filming on the fairgrounds that day, Woods said.

“We’re a splinter unit, sent to do beauty shots,” he said. “When the credits are rolling at the beginning of the film, there might be shots of livestock, rides and other scenes from the fair.”

The movie starts out at the Ohio State Fair, where a group of thieves has planned an explosion and fire at one end of the grounds to distract police and other authorities. Then, they rob the headquarters of all the gate money and other money received during the fair. Staring in the movie, titled “Parker,” are Jason Statham, Jennifer Lopez, Nick Nolte, Michael Chiklis and Clifton Collins, all of whom were shooting scenes on the grounds during the fair, except Lopez, Woods said.

“We were to do most of the shooting with the main actors at a similar location in New Orleans,” he said. “But that fell through, so we ended up having to bring everyone to Ohio to do a lot of the shooting.”

“Why was the Ohio State Fair chosen?” I asked.

“That’s what was written in the script,” Woods said. “We’re just following the script.”

According to the Internet Movie Database, www.imdb.com, “Parker” is scheduled for release in 2012 and is, “A crime/thriller centered on a thief who lives by a code of honor that includes never stealing money from people who need it.” The website describes the storyline this way: “After Parker is stiffed by his partners in a bank robbery, he vows revenge and tracks them to their next job, a jewelry heist in Palm Beach. With the help of his lover, Claire, and real estate agent Leslie Mackenzie, Parker stalks his victims and their loot.”

No mention of the Ohio State Fair there, so it obviously isn’t the star of show. But, it sure added a little extra excitement to the typical fair activities for some of Ohio’s 4-H and FFA youth. For example, Aaron Bruner, 17, of Pettisville, and Justin Nofziger, 13, of Wauseon had been participating in beef showmanship earlier on this day, when suddenly Hollywood came calling.

“Grandpa grabbed me and said, ‘You’re going to be in a movie,’” Nofziger said. “I grabbed Aaron and away we went. They needed a Gator driver.”

So for about a half hour, as the scene I described earlier was being shot over and over, Woods kept directing Nofziger and Bruner to drive by in the background with a couple straw bales stacked in the back of their Gator. Who knows if it will make the final cut, but it sure made for a fun, exciting addition to their day.

“It’s been fun for the youngsters to be a part of a film,” King said. “We’re just trying to put our best foot forward. If we’re going to be part of something, we might as well do it right.”

Woods was obviously pleased and impressed with the assistance and cooperation he’d gotten from everyone.

“We’re just amazingly appreciative of the state of Ohio, police officials, Mr. King and everyone we’ve met,” he said. “All those guys have been just amazing.”

Now that’s one announcement that isn’t so odd. As most with experience can attest, our 4-H and FFA youth are generally the best of the best.

Jimi Woods, left, coordinates the filming of a scene from the movie “Parker,” shot on location at the Ohio State Fair on Aug. 5.
Aaron Bruner, left, of Pettisville and Justin Nofziger, Wauseon, were just two of a number of youth from the beef barn at the Ohio State Fair who were asked to volunteer as extras in scenes shot for the movie. These boys were asked to drive this Gator through the background of a scene.

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