Rose and Carl Stough bonded over their passion for poultry 60 years ago, and they still share that same passion today as they work side by side in the poultry barn at the Ohio State Fair.
“Oh I remember it well; my first visit to the fair was the summer of 1953,” says Carl as he reminisces on his high school days.
Carl raised chickens his whole life and always showed at the Hancock County Fair, but when he turned 16 he wanted to show them at the State Fair because “that’s where all the action was.” Although he had his driver’s license at the time, his dad wouldn’t let him drive, so his dad took Carl, his suitcase and 15 chickens and dropped them off in the chicken barn for seven days.
“It got cold a couple nights and I didn’t have enough blankets so I had to scrounge around for some coats to use, but I’ve been back ever since for 64 years now,” said Carl.
Growing up, Rose also found the local fair to be the highlight of her summer. Rose’s parents would take her to the fair for a “day of freedom.”
“I was fortunate enough to cross paths with a farm boy with the same passion,” said Rose.
Carl and Rose were both from Findlay, Ohio when they met while Carl was attending college there and Rose was in high school. They bonded over their similar backgrounds and were then married in 1957. Carl was a high school principal for 23 years and Rose worked as an elementary school librarian. The now retired couple resides in Galion, but they travel back and forth each year to the Fair for the entire 12 days, plus two extra.
Carl and Rose’s whole lives have been wrapped around poultry, and their children grew up that way too. From raising and showing chickens, Rose and Carl now work in the poultry barn at the Ohio State Fair. This year will be their 25th year working there together.
Carl started working at the Fair in the 1960s as the poultry superintendent for five years, but then returned to school to get his master’s degree. In the early 90s, Carl was asked to return to the Fair as assistant superintendent, a position he has held for 25 years.
“I’ve only missed one year because of the avian flu,” said Carl, referring to the 2015 Ohio State Fair when all poultry shows in Ohio were cancelled due to the threat of avian influenza – a prevention technique that successfully kept Ohio’s birds safe.
At the Fair, Rose is in charge of the office while Carl spends his time putting coupe tags on and getting bedding and water cups ready for the show. Once the Fair begins, the routine is taking care of about 2,000 head of poultry.
“My wife and I raise show chickens, so not only do we work in the barn, but we show our birds,” said Carl.
While the couple loves poultry, they say the biggest benefit of working at the Fair is the companionship they have found with those they work with in the poultry barn.
“The group of people that work there have been together for years. We’re like a fraternity, we have very similar backgrounds, but we all have a common cause. We love the state fair, we love working there, and we work well together,” said Carl.
Both Carl and Rose enjoy the management and office staff at the Fair too. The management and staff make a habit of stopping to visit the couple each year in the poultry barn.
“General Manager, Virgil Strickler and his crew are very nice to us and make us feel like we’re worth something working in the chicken barn and I’m sure that’s the same for everyone,” stated Carl.
Although Carl and Rose work the full Fair, they still find time to enjoy the many attractions the Fair has to offer. Some of their favorite attractions include seeing the cattle, horses, Natural Resources Park, horticulture exhibits and the arts and crafts.
According to Rose, there’s not too much the couple doesn’t enjoy, although she says that they are too old for the rides, they prefer to stand and watch.
“Where I go, Carl goes,” said Rose.
The couple has watched the Fair change year after year; buildings have emerged, landscape improved and the size of the crowds increased. One thing that has remained constant is their Fair food favorites. Rose enjoys the big cream puffs and Carl gets a bratwurst every year.
Another thing that hasn’t changed is Carl and Rose’s passion for poultry and the Ohio State Fair. The couple looks forward to the Fair each year, but is glad when it’s over because they are exhausted from the 14 days of work.
“It’s like Christmas I guess, it’s something to look forward to. When you think about it you get a nice feeling. Heck, it’s summer and it’s not too far away and I’m already looking forward to it,” stated Carl.
Rose and Carl also enjoy making a little spending money while doing what they love. The couple saves their Fair check to buy presents for their grandkids at Christmas each year.
Over the years, Rose and Carl have shown chickens at other fairs, but their loyalty lies with the Ohio State Fair.
“Ohio State Fair is so well-rounded; we have education programs, national wildlife center, arts and crafts, entertainers and the All-Ohio State Fair Band,” said Carl.
Carl and Rose celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary in May, and today at the Fair, Rose will celebrate her 80th birthday.
“Her birthday always falls that week so we have a little party in the chicken barn,” said Carl.
Rose views her 80th birthday as just another work day with a big number attached to it, but she says she can work as hard at 80 as she could at 50.
“The state fair is in our genes, being a farm boy and being connected with the Ohio State Fair so long, it’s just going to be sad when we can no longer do it,” said Carl.
Happy Birthday, Rose! We appreciate your hard work and dedication to the Ohio State Fair.