The governor spent the night with a family in the dairy cow barn.
By MICHELE C. HLADIK
COLUMBUS -- "Its fair time Ohio," Gov. Bob Taft proclaimed at the opening ceremony of the 2005 Ohio State Fair on Wednesday.
"We couldn't have the Ohio State Fair without the junior fair, and it wouldn't be the Ohio State Fair without the [All-Ohio State Fair Band and All-Ohio State Fair Youth Choir]."
The state fair, slated to run until Aug. 14, officially opened Wednesday with performances by the band and the choir, a flurry of confetti and remarks by both Taft and Virgil Strickler, state fair general manager.
More than 100 fairgoers stopped to see the opening ceremony.
In his opening comments, Taft said he believes the fair will see a record-breaking year and that fair employees are ready for it.
"Even Smokey Bear has a new coat," Taft said encouraging fairgoers to look at the new changes throughout the fair.
"The Ohio State Fair reflects our state's remarkable diversity all in a single location," Taft said. "The fair has something for everyone from the rides, to the entertainment, to animals, to fair food. I invite all Ohioans to come out and spend a few days at the Ohio State Fair."
Strickler also told fairgoers they would see many changes around the fair.
"As you look around you'll see so many improvements," he said referring to landscaping and new bathrooms.
Strickler also praised the staff and administrators who help run and operate the event.
"How proud I am to stand in front of you as the general manager of the Ohio State Fair," Strickler said. "I do have the county and state fairs in my blood and in my bones."
Strickler said he is most proud of the amount of youth participating in the fair this year as exhibitors, band and choir members and the junior fair board.
The governor and first lady Hope Taft later visited the Habitat for Humanity site located on the fairgrounds. The governor was also expected to spend a night in the dairy cow barn with Mount Sterling residents, Dave and Lisa Shannon and their two daughters.
"That's what the fair is all about," Taft said. "Hard-working families like the Shannons." Earlier in the day, Taft visited the Ohio Department of Natural Resources area and served ice cream in the dairy products building to a few fairgoers.