By Matt Reese
For me, the Ohio State Fair is a very busy stretch with my work schedule and two children showing a variety of livestock projects, but those long hours are quickly forgotten when replaced by proud parent moments that will last a lifetime. There were certainly plenty of those for mothers and fathers around the state at this year’s Ohio State Fair.
At an event bursting with proud parents, auctioneer Kevin Wendt had to be right up there as the proudest papa in the building as he watched his daughter Riley parade her Reserve Champion Market Barrow around the ring in the Sale of Champions. For the last several years, Kevin has been the Sale of Champions auctioneer for the cheese, turkey and goat sales that kick off the event. This year, though, Kevin stayed off the auction block to focus on just being a dad. Seeing the look of the purest joy as he stood ringside and watched his daughter’s barrow sell for a record-setting $35,000 in the Sale of Champions made it apparent his decision was the correct one. I wrote a story about the Wendt family a few years ago and really enjoyed seeing them succeed. That was one of my favorite Ohio State Fair moments, but there were many others, including some proud dad moments of my own.
It was not noon yet and it had already been a long day for my children Campbell (11) and Parker (9) at the Ohio State Fair, as was the day before and the day before that. Campbell was in the Voinovich Building for her beef showmanship class with a Shorthorn heifer. As soon as she left the show ring, a golf cart was waiting to whisk her away to the sheep barn for the Guys and Gals Sheep Lead competition that had already started. She quickly traded her cattle show clothes for an elegant blue wool coat (on a steamy 90-degree day) and a fancy hat. When it was her turn to go, Campbell walked into the show ring with poise and grace that, as a father, I was both proud of and somewhat concerned about (dads out there know what I mean). I diligently took a video on my phone.
After a long deliberation, the judges announced the placing of the class. Campbell won! I was busy taking pictures so I didn’t see it, but someone later said when Parker heard his sister had won, he pumped his fist and said “Yessss!” This was my favorite moment at the Ohio State Fair — even as I write this I can’t help but grin when I think about it.
In addition, both children made the final drive with their turkeys, Campbell also made the final drive with her chickens and there were numerous times along the way (despite
inevitable sibling squabbling on those long fair days) where my children displayed sportsmanship and kindness to others. I saw many other exhibitors demonstrate the same kindness and sportsmanship to my children as well.
The ribbons, banners and recognition from the fair will soon be collecting dust or packed in a box somewhere. The photos will curl and fade (or get lost in the zillion other photos on my phone). Success is wonderful, but ultimately fairs are about the diligent pursuit of excellence through the lens of friends, fun and — most importantly — family, hopefully generating many fond memories along the way. Thanks to so many great folks for an incredible 2019 Ohio State Fair and the chance to see our young people shine!