For Don and Karen Hanes, the annual Washington County Agricultural Fair is a reunion, of sorts.
“I get to see people that I don’t get to see the rest of the year,” said Washington resident Don Hanes. “It’s a nice place to come, and everyone takes the time from farming to spend time talking, reliving old things and laughing.”
Karen Hanes started coming to the fair when she was three years old as a model for her father’s exhibit, in which he sold water softener.
Now, the Hanes’ grandchildren take part in the fair – in its 219th year – entering animals as 4-H members, submitting artwork and performing in Wednesday’s cheering exhibition.
“It’s generations participating,” said Karen Hanes.
The fair, featuring music, livestock contests, entertainment and food, kicked off Saturday and runs through Aug. 19 at Washington County Fairgrounds in Chartiers Township.
New attractions this year include local illusionist Josh Knotts’ Extreme Illusions and Escape, American Racing Mower Association lawn mower races and glass blowing.
Among the nightly grandstand events are a timed obstacle course for side-by-side and 4X4 all-terrain vehicles today, monster truck racing Tuesday and the annual high school band performances and school bus demolition derby Wednesday.
“We’ve added a few new things, but there are still several older attractions that are always popular,” said Wayne Hunnell, secretary of Washington County Fair Board. “There should be plenty to do for everyone, depending on what your interests are.”
Knotts, a Canon-McMillan graduate who won the Merlin Award for Entertainment for his work (joining the company of David Copperfield, Criss Angel, Siegfried & Roy and Penn & Teller, who also received the award) will appear daily.
Hunnell said the lawn mower races include racers who compete across the country in sanctioned events to earn points toward the ARMA championship.
This year’s main entertainment will be country music star Joe Diffie, who performs Thursday. Also appearing Thursday are singers Caroline Cole and Keith Anderson. Other musical acts scheduled to perform throughout the week include Easy Street Band, The Sarah Hayes Band and Bill Podish.
The fair also showcases the 4-H program, and the local agricultural dynamic adds to the popularity of the fair, providing nonfarmers with a close-up look at the lifestyle.
Hunnell said the preparations were slowed by the recent flooding, which damaged the racetrack where harness racing will be held and flooded a concession stand.
“The whole lower end of the track toward the barns was washed out, the stone was gone and there were large ruts carved into the track. We had to hustle to get those ruts out,” said Hunnell, who thanked local businesses who volunteered to repair the track.
“Hopefully, we’ll have good weather for the fair,” Hunnell said.
By Saturday afternoon, the sun peaked through the clouds as Washington resident Linda Shaw sat at a picnic table, waiting to watch her grandnephews compete in the pedal power tractor pull.
“I’ve been coming here as long as I can remember. My brothers used to bring cows to show,” she said. “We live on a farm up the road, and it’s always so busy, we don’t go anywhere except the fair.”
Daily admission to the fair costs $10. Admission is free for children ages 4 and younger who do not want to ride. Weekly passes are $30, which does not include rides.
For more information, including a full schedule of events, visit www.washingtonfair.org.