ST. CLAIRSVILLE - The Belmont County Fair opened Wednesday with a celebration and showcase of the area's rich agricultural resources.
County Prosecutor Chris Berhalter served as keynote speaker and talked of the importance of the fair and the 4-H program in instilling values in the youngest members of the community. He added that he comes by his knowledge firsthand, since his three children are active 4-H members.
"When you're given this gift of children it can be an overwhelming task at times, because they don't come with an instruction book," he said, adding that a system of support is important in imparting virtue and the value of hard work. "There are times in the world we live in today, that when you hold true to those values or still believe in those values, you can feel like you're alone, or on an island."
SARAH?HOLTSCLAW shows off her Belmont County?Fair entry, Donatello. Holtsclaw was the first queen runnerup in the Junior Fair royalty court. The fair continues through Sunday. To see more fair photos view CU.timesleaderonline.com
He quoted the founding principles of 4-H, which emphasizes the importance of hard work in building character and creating lifelong learners.
"Those are not just words or talk. We've actually seen that in action," Berhalter said, pointing out the sportsmanship and fair play that holds even in the fiercest competitions. "When you look at this organization and the children who participate and even their families that belong as well, you realize you're not alone on this island."
Ohio Department of Agriculture Director David Daniels spoke about Ohio's history of intimate connection with agriculture, dating from the first farming settlers. He noted the $105 billion generated economic activity and one in seven jobs in the state generated by agriculture.
Recognition went to the Martins and Theaker farm families who have operated their respective farms for 200 years. He advised any farming family with generations invested in their property to contact the department of agriculture.
"This year we will designate 64 bicentennial farms in the state of Ohio. We hope that we've got more, because these families are an extremely important part of Ohio's agrarian history," he said, adding that the fair was a fitting place to honor them. "No place does agriculture shine like the county fair. We wanted to recognize these families in front of the peers, in front of the people that stand alongside them and work the land everyday."
Daniels also thanked Belco Works for providing preparatory work for the fair.
Extension Officer Jane Keyser recognized the fair royalty for this year, noting that they represent the 600 young people involved in 4-H in the county. She introduced new County Ag Educator Dan Lima. She commented on the long partnership between the Extension Office and Fair Board.
Representatives from the lieutenant governor's office, the state auditor's office, US Rep. Bill Johnson, US Sen. Rob Portman, and the secretary of state recognized the importance of the fair, its community and educational role in promoting the state's important field of agriculture, and the work that has gone into making it a reality.
Also present were Ohio Sen. Lou Gentile and Rep. Jack Cera, the county commissioners, and local officials.
The VFW and American Legion participated in the opening ceremonies.
A moment of silence was held for Marvelyn Saffell and Shirley Shumaker, late board members.
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