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The Belmont County Fair is back!

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — The 172nd annual Belmont County Fair is officially underway after officials raised the flag and cut the ribbon during Monday’s opening ceremony.

A small crowd gathered as the American flag was raised, followed by fair board members and county officials cutting the ceremonial ribbon. Afterward, members of the fair board and attendees gathered at the Robinson Stage, where the ceremony continued. Fair board President Ed Campbell thanked all the supporters, county and state officials, and volunteers.

“This is what makes our county great — you guys coming out here supporting our youth and everything that they do,” he said.

Campbell said it has been a struggle over the past year through the COVID-19 pandemic; however, organizers have persisted to make it a great fair. He said there are numerous hand sanitizing stations around the fairgrounds.

“This is how we will help keep this pandemic in check and to protect you guys,” he added. “We will also be sanitizing the bleachers in between each of the shows.”

Campbell also mentioned the numerous improvements made over the past year, including blacktop around the midway, walkways and around the barns to make them more handicap accessible; a new junior fair building with the aid of a “gracious” donor; and upgrades to the older junior fair building and to the barns. Crews are in the process of extending the parking lot to behind the horse barn to allow for additional parking.

Barb Ballint, director of the Belmont County Tourism Council, spoke of the importance of the fair to residents, the county and its heritage. She said thousands of people will attend the fair, helping to support the local economy while also providing needed entertainment for children and their families. She also said the fair allows residents to celebrate their community and builds community spirit.

“The fair is vital to our local communities — socializing, learning, meeting new people and helping our communities, and it’s fun,” she said.

Although U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Ohio, could not make it, a representative, Amber Kohler, spoke on his behalf. Kohler then read a letter written by Johnson congratulating those involved in putting on the fair and stressing the fair’s importance to the youth who participate in it.

“By participating in the fair, students can gain valuable experience and in-depth understanding of the important role agriculture plays in today’s ever-changing world,” the letter states.

Johnson wrote that the fair has something for everyone to enjoy, and that he is most looking forward to Zerbini Family Circus and the demolition derby.

The fair’s royalty was also crowned Monday afternoon. Faith Galavich is the junior fair queen, Ronnie DuVall the duke, Jenna DuVall the duchess, Seth Schumacher the prince, and Delaney Steadman the princess.

Galavich said she has been running for many years and is thrilled to hold the title this year.

“It took a lot of hard work and dedication to get here. I don’t come from a traditional background in junior fairs, and to me it shows if you work hard and are dedicated you can do anything you set your mind to,” she said.

Galavich said she is excited the fair has returned after only a scaled-back version of the junior fair was held last year.

“I’m looking forward to seeing the fair in full force again. Last year, we unfortunately couldn’t have a full fair and I’m very excited to see all the members and to see the community come out and support the fair,” she said.

Some of the royal court duties include attending shows, giving out awards, visiting other fairs and being an overall positive role model and representation for the county, Galavich said.

The fair continues through Sunday. Today, it begins at 8 a.m. with the all junior fair market and will conclude with the Jr. Fair rabbit weigh-in at 7:30 p.m.at the Rabbit Barn. The Zerbini Family Circus will perform at 5 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, and at 11 a.m. and 7:30 p.m.Thursday. Rafter M. Rodeo will appear at 6 p.m. Wednesday, with the Taylor Jo and the Copper Creek Band scheduled at 7 p.m.

Fair Field Day will take place from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday, with the Hee Haw Variety Show set for 7 p.m., along with KOI Drag Racing.

Friday is Senior Citizens Day, when all residents ages 62 and up will have free admission to the fair. The Zerbini Family Circus will perform at 1, 5 and 7:30 p.m. The Ohio State Tractor Pullers Association Tractor and Truck Pull will begin at 7 p.m. along with Lacy & Her Attitude at the Robinson Stage. The Jr. Fair Square Dance will begin at 8 p.m. with Deep Down Country.

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