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[caption width="250" caption=" The merry-go-round is a star attraction for youngsters at The Hartford Fair. (For the Gazette | Lenny C. Lepola) "][/caption]

LENNY C. LEPOLA

For the Gazette

The 153rd Annual Hartford Independent Fair opens Sunday, Aug. 7, and runs through Saturday, Aug. 17. For the uninitiated, the Hartford Fair is one of seven independent fairs in Ohio. Billed as The BIGGEST Little Fair in the World, year after year the seven-day event draws record crowds.

The Hartford Independent Agricultural Society, a.k.a. the Hartford Fair, is located in the northwest corner of Licking County. It’s a unique fair in comparison to other Ohio fairs, incorporating directors from Licking County and neighboring Delaware and Knox counties. Delaware County’s current Hartford Fair Board members are Chip Carpenter, Brad Debolt, Dick Fisher and Larry Wollett.

Young people from four Delaware County townships participate in the fair, which also draws exhibitors from three townships in neighboring Knox County. Because Licking County does not have a county fair of its own, the Hartford Independent Fair Junior Fair includes exhibitors from all of Licking County.

The Hartford Fair was organized in the fall of 1858 under the name The Hartford Fair Society. The first Hartford Fair was subsequently held in 1858. There were no buildings erected on the original 25-acre site until a food service building was established 10 years later. In 1883, a 500-seat amphitheater was constructed, and a sheep barn was added in 1901. Because youth 4-H and FFA events are such an integral part of the Hartford Fair, a dorm was built in 1958 to house boys and another added for girls in 1968.

The Licking County Junior Fair was added to the program in 1938. In 1948 Licking County established the first 4-H Band. The 4-H Band built a dorm for their members in 1973. Throughout the years of its existence, the growth of the Hartford Fair centered on youth organizations and their activities, and the Hartford Fair has one of the largest Junior Fair programs in the State of Ohio.

Today’s 133-acre fairgrounds boasts eight acres under the signature Hartford Fair red roofs; the grounds contain four permanent food service facilities, and every building on the fairgrounds is ADA compliant.

The Hartford fairgrounds is not your usual once a year facility. Throughout the year, the fairgrounds hosts Blue Grass festivals, motorcycle racing, equestrian events and competitions, and the horse barn stalls are rented year round.

For a free sneak peek of this year’s Hartford Fair, stop at the fairgrounds on Saturday, Aug. 6, for the 7 p.m. Hartford Fair King & Queen Contest at the Pavilion. The King & Queen Contest will also serve as an informal 153rd Hartford Independent Fair Opening Ceremony.

The Hartford Fair Office is near the fairground south entrance, 14028 Fairgrounds Road, Croton. Office Hours during fair week only are 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.; through the rest of the year office hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday; 9 a.m. to noon Saturdays on July 9, 16, 23, and 30; and closed on holidays.

The Hartford Fair General Gate Admission (does not include rides) is $6 from Sunday Aug. 7 through Saturday, Aug. 13 (those ages 7 and under are free). From 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 8, senior citizens can enter for $3. Admission is free on Saturday, Aug. 6. Parking is free every fair day (a week-long preferred parking pass is available for $20) and all grandstand events are free on a first come, first serve basis.

For additional information, phone 740-893-4881, Fax 740-893-4810, email hartfordfair@embarqmail.com or log on to http://hartfordfair.com/.