Lorain County Fair
In 1846 Lorain Countians enjoyed their first county fair. Although times have changed, the fete’s allure remains steadfast. Held at the fairgrounds in Wellington, it’s the third-largest county fair in the state and attended by more than 140,000.
“Since the fair began, agriculture has been a centerpiece,” says Charisse Nikel, Lorain County Fair secretary and office manager. “The 4-H program is one of the best and the largest in Ohio. More than 1,300 kids participate, and the animals they’ve raised are showcased every year.”
Another unique aspect, she adds, is the Combine Derby, in which drivers get behind the wheel of harvesters and vie for the championship.
“Instead of a demolition derby where cars are smashed up, combines are used,” Nikel says. “The event is on Saturday night, and if the weather is good it will sell out as it does every year. The contestant who’s still moving at the end is the winner.”
Concessions ranging from cotton candy and funnel cakes to gelato and ice cream wrapped in bubble waffles, traditional midway rides, a showcase of award-winning arts and crafts projects and live entertainment make the experience complete.
“It’s a very nice fair,” Nikel says. “We strive to add something new each year.” loraincountyfair.com
North Ridgeville Corn Festival
What began in 1975 as a way to commemorate America’s bicentennial has grown into a fitting accolade for the 200th anniversary of Lorain County this year. Through the decades, the North Ridgeville Corn Festival, held at Bainbridge Road and South Central Park, has garnered legions of attendees and raised more than $250,000 for civic and charitable projects.
John Butkowski, who was the president of the North Ridgeville Corn Festival Committee when it launched in 1975 and is this year’s president, remembers how the idea for the fete was sparked.
“Chuck Stewart was mayor at the time, and really wanted North Ridgeville to be recognized as one of America’s official bicentennial communities in 1976,” he says. “One of the requirements for being selected was that each community had to create something that would have a lasting impact. Since North Ridgeville was known at the time for the amount of corn farmers produced, hosting an annual corn festival was a natural fit.”
Corn-eating contests; a classic car show; an arts-and-crafts fair; fireworks; and a parade complete with floats, marching bands and antique autos complement favorite fair foods and live entertainment. Since 1991, Golden Kernel Awards have been presented during the Friday night opening ceremonies to North Ridgeville residents who’ve made the city a better place to live.
“The corn festival also serves as a homecoming for high school and family reunions,” Butkowski says. “It’s so rewarding to see residents who attended our first one return every year with the next generation.” nrcornfest.org
Lorain International Festival
As it’s been since 1968, Lorain’s dedication to embracing cultural diversity will once again be celebrated at the Lorain International Festival. The fete — which earned the town worldwide renown as “The International City”— takes place at Black River Landing. It features more than two dozen booths serving a host of ethnic cuisine, as well as live entertainment representing a variety of cultures and a bazaar filled with artisan crafts.
“Over the last century, we’ve had wave after wave of immigrant groups representing more than 55 nationalities settle in Lorain, mostly to work at the steel mill and in our factories,” says Chris Rewak, president of the Lorain International Association Board.
Highlights of the weekend include the eagerly anticipated International Parade, featuring floats representing a variety of nationalities and the princesses ages 16 to 24 who’ve made a commitment to share their heritage and family background at events throughout Ohio.
“Through our culture, we really get to know who we are,” Rewak reflects. “And when we share that with other people, we’re better able to understand their cultures and opinions, too.” loraininternational.com
Elyria Apple Festival
“A group of civic leaders attended a conference in Columbus, and one of the speakers did a presentation about the Circleville Pumpkin Festival,” says Stacey Francis, a president of the Elyria Apple Festival. Her father, Lyle Crosby, served in that role from the festival’s launch in 1980 until 1999. “That sparked the idea for creating a festival in Elyria. Since Lorain County is home to so many apple farms, they decided an apple festival would be perfect.”
In addition to the tempting fair food that’s known and loved, the iconic Midway Oh Boy and fried perch sandwiches have become irresistible options. The ode to autumn also features family-friendly activities including a Kids Zone with a rock-climbing wall and DJ, a princess pageant, a classic car show and an apple-baking competition with entries that have ranged from ice cream and donuts to bread and pies.
“The festival is a tradition,” Francis says, “we never tire of.” elyriaapplefestival.com