The Ohio State Fair has more than 165 years of rich history, unforgettable memories and everlasting tradition to its name. We’ve all heard of Fair staples like the iconic butter cow or the giant Smokey Bear, but what about the time a baby was born on the fairgrounds? Or when Jimmy Dean and Bob Evans went head-to-head in a bidding war? Here are five Ohio State Fair facts you (probably) didn’t know, courtesy of “A History of the Ohio State Fair,” by C. LaVon Shook.
- Adoption Free-For-All (1902)
The Children’s Home Society used to have a booth at the Fair encouraging fairgoers to adopt orphans right there and then, no questions asked. The Columbus Dispatch mentioned the unusual booth with this quote:
“BOYS! BOYS! BOYS! Responsible farmers or other persons desiring a good boy to raise, or a little child by adoption will do well to visit the booth of the Children’s Home Society of Ohio in the main hall of the state fair buildings.”
- Sitting Scam (1915)
One scam quickly busted by the Fair Board was run by some lunch concessionaires who set up shop under the old grandstand. They offered hot coffee and sandwiches for 5 cents each and encouraged visitors to take a seat and relax while they enjoyed their refreshments. When the bill came, customers were surprised to see that they were unknowingly charged an extra 5 cents…just for sitting!
- Lost Husbands Booth? (1949)
The Lost Children Booths, as the name says, is usually utilized for parents to locate lost kids. However, on a Sunday in 1949 a whopping seven women visited the information desk hoping to locate their lost husbands! The State Highway Patrol pitched in, and all seven men were found.
- Entering the world through the 11th Ave. Gate (1961)
David Hammond couldn’t dodge the heavy Saturday afternoon traffic when trying to rush his wife to the hospital, and the result was the birth of a baby girl at the 11th Avenue entrance. The family was later transported to Riverside Hospital and were reportedly doing well.
- Battle of the Brands (1983)
Two livestock bidding wars between prominent corporations occurred at the Fair in 1983. The first was between Burger King, Wendy’s International and Big Bite, going head-to-head to head over a prize steer where Wendy’s hailed the winner. The second bidding war was between Bob Evans and Jimmy Dean, competing over a barrow. Once the bidding reached $30,000, Dean stepped down, “but Dean then stole the show by climbing on the choir directors’ stand and directing the All-Ohio State Fair Choir in a rousing ‘Battle Hymn of the Republic!’” (The Columbus Dispatch).