West Liberty native attends Ohio State Fair for 71st consecutive year

William Smith stands by a brick that commemorates his attendance at the Ohio State Fair.

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William Smith stands by a brick that commemorates his attendance at the Ohio State Fair.

For the last 71 years, 80-year-old William Smith has visited the Ohio State Fair.

“Visiting the fair is just automatic,” said Smith, a West Liberty native who now resides in Reynoldsburg. “I wouldn’t think of missing it. I’ve planned vacations so I don’t have to miss it; other things are just worked around it.”

Smith, who owns his own business, Data Doctor, originally began visiting the state fair in 1938. He has been visited consecutively since 1946.

His first visit to the state fair came when he was 2, but he was unable to attend from 1942 to 1945. At that time his father was serving in World War II, and the Ohio State Fair was cancelled to allow the war department to use the grounds and buildings.

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Over the years, Smith has noticed changes at the fair.

“Back when I first started coming, it was many, many acres of farm machinery,” Smith said. “Now there’s only one farm machinery display. It has gone from totally agricultural to something that is more urban.”

Smith’s wife, Kathy, has attended every fair since 1955 with the exception of the year their youngest daughter was born.

Smith, his wife, and their two daughters are all members of the Ohio State Fair 50 Year Club. The 50 Year Club is for fairgoers who visited the fair at least one time in 1967 or earlier.

When he visits, Smith says he always visits the swine, beef and cattle barns but tries take to everything in that the fair has to offer.

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Smith says he doesn’t have a goal in mind when it comes to how many years he wants to continue visiting the fair.

“I never started out with the consideration, it just happened,” Smith said. “As long as my legs will take me, I’ll be there.”

Smith does have one tradition when he visits the fair.

“I always get an elephant ear,” Smith said. “I’m actually a diabetic, so I splurge once a year.”

Smith’s daughters dedicated a brick to commemorate his fair attendance. The brick was installed in June near the Cardinal Gate entrance at the Ohio State Expo Center.

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