Traditional Ohio State Fair Increases Cultural Diversity

AP, Port Clinton News Herald.com

COLUMBUS—The Ohio State Fair has traditionally been as American as apple pie-on-a-stick.

This year, fair officials have increased their marketing efforts toward a community that might identify more with the traditions of other countries—the state’s Hispanic population.

Hispanics are the nation’s fastest-growing minority group, and their Ohio population grew 4.4 percent between 2000 and 2002, according to Census data. They now number about 230,000, or 2 percent of the state’s population.

Fair spokeswoman Christina Minier said there are more events on the Aug. 4-15 schedule this year geared toward that community.

“Fiesta Ohio,” a celebration of Hispanic culture, is back for a second year. It features groups performing Mexican, Aztec and other dance music Aug. 14 on the Main Street Stage. That and the Aug. 8 concert by Latina artist Jennifer PeÒa are outreach efforts to the Hispanic community, Minier said.

“It’s an effort to attract those communities to the fair and to also educate fair-goers about those cultures,” she said.

Phillip Barbosa, a commissioner with the state’s Commission on Hispanic/Latino Affairs, said the first “Fiesta Ohio” event last year was a success for the community. The commission participated and plans to do so again, he added.

Barbosa said many Hispanic families identify with events at the fair.

“It’s more cost-effective for a lot of families than a visit to Cedar Point,” he said. “Many Hispanics tend to be working in agriculture on some level or another, and it brings them together to see what they’ve been producing.”

Minier said “Fiesta Ohio” will remain on the fair schedule annually with one additional rotating event to celebrate different cultures each year.

This year it’s the African Fest on Aug. 7, featuring West African and masquerade dancers and African Reggae. Last year’s fair had an event called “Passport to Asia.”

Ohio families have just two weekends to visit the state fair this year—the 12-day schedule is the shortest the event has been in almost 30 years.

The fair’s general manager, Virgil Strickler, said it will be the same fair with the same events.

“It’s just going to be more power-packed,” he said.

Minier said the choice to trim days was made to keep overhead costs down and reduce the time the fair competed for visitors with other events like concerts.

Fair food has been a key attraction in the past, and the words “fried” and “on-a-stick” play big on this year’s menu as usual. Steaks, sausages and cheesecakes are some of the new impaled offerings.

One card the fair isn’t playing—yet—to draw people to the shortened fair is advertising whose likeness will be formed in lipids in the latest butter sculptures sponsored by the American Dairy Association and Dairy Council Mid East.

The fair will have its traditional butter cow and calf, but visitors will have to wait until opening day to learn the shapes of this year’s sculptures, which the council says include three figures.

As for who or what those figures are, “it’s a big secret,” Minier said.

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