Montgomery County Fair: As 4-H participation rebounds, horse show looking to grow

The number of 4-H participants continues to rise as the Montgomery County Fair bounces back in its second year after COVID-19 prevented the 2020 fair.

The fair is celebrating 170 years, and has been in its place on Infirmary Road since 2018. After COVID-19 precautions canceled the 2020 fair, attendance took a hit after 8 inches of rain during the fair period in 2021. This year, the fair’s executive director, Lori Page, is hoping for attendance to increase from 2021′s 26,000 to 30,000 attendees or more.

The number of 4-H members has increased as well, with about 270 showing animals this week. However, the horse show is still experiencing lower numbers with 13 horse and rider pairs this year.

“We are truly trying to recruit. These are the lowest numbers we’ve ever had,” said Katrine Mobley, president of the Montgomery County 4-H Horse Club.

There are horse clubs covering every region of Montgomery County, where students can learn about horses and borrow them for the fair. Exhibitors in the horse show can either own their horse or take advantage of the leasing option that some clubs offer.

“We’ve had some members graduate. The whole COVID thing affects families making decisions,” said Betty Wingerter, an educator with the Ohio State University Extension who coordinates all the 4-H and FFA exhibits and activities at the Montgomery County Fair.

Credit: JIM NOELKER

Credit: JIM NOELKER

Lacy and Kara McNutt, sisters from New Lebanon, showed horses for their first time this year. The youngest, Kara, works with her miniature horse named Bob, who belongs to her club’s advisor. Lacy owns Roxy, a shining black and white horse she practices with every day.

Options like these can help reduce the cost of showing horses, making the experience more accessible. The time commitment is another factor in a family’s decision to join 4-H.

“To get good, you have to work for years,” said Vicki Smith, advisor of Los Cahbahyos 4-H club. Seven of the 13 exhibitors belonged to Smith’s club, ranging from one to eight years of experience.

Horse exhibitors can now keep their horses at the fair with them, which they were unable to do before the Montgomery County Fair moved to these fairgrounds.

“We appreciate being able to bring our horses to the fair, getting the full fair experience which they weren’t able to do in the past,” Smith said.

Krystal Lacy watched her daughters Lacy and Kara McNutt wash their horses for an hour the night before the show, grooming them to perfection. Lacy and Kara have practiced routines with the horse they own daily, and Kara has practiced with their leased horse weekly.

Preparation paid off when Kari Beers of Pataskala awarded Kara first place and Lacy second place in the good grooming competition.

“Fantastic,” said Krystal of their experience. “They’ve really enjoyed working with the horses nearly daily.”


HOW TO GO

What: Montgomery County Fair

When: Noon to 10 p.m. Sunday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday

Where: Montgomery County Fairgrounds, 645 Infirmary Road, Dayton

Details: The 170th installment of the Montgomery County Fair includes food, rides, games, livestock programs, live performances and more.

Cost: $10, with children younger than 6 admitted free with a paid adult

More info: 937-224-1619 or montcofair.com

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