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Lifetime Hardin County resident Bob McBride has been involved with the county’s fair board for longer than many have been going to the annual event.
Bob’s history with the fair dates back to his days as an infant when, as his mother told him, he was there.
“The first year the fair started up again was 1939, I was just a newborn and my mother said I was there,” he said.
As the years went on, Bob began to show animals at the fair. He recalled his first animal he showed was a Brown Swiss heifer.
“Back then, we had to wear white coveralls every time we showed,” Bob said. “I’ve still got those coveralls. Some friends razz me because I never throw anything away.”
Bob graduated from Hardin Northern in 1957. After earning his bachelor of science degree in agricultural education and his master’s degree in education from Ohio State University, he taught vocational agriculture at Hardin Northern.
Teaching was something Bob said he knew he always wanted to do and truly enjoyed working with the kids.
“The easiest part of anything was in the classroom,” Bob said, referring to his time teaching vocational agriculture.
While at Hardin Northern, Bob received several awards and honors, including being named teacher of the year, distinguished alumni from Ohio State, was a state officer for the vo ag’s association in Ohio, was named national vo ag teacher vice president, was named to several national committees, and was the vice president and president of the Ohio Vocational Teachers.
“We were successful,” he said.
On top of all the awards and honors, Bob was also in the second group inducted into the Agricultural Hall of Fame.
“I can’t say enough about this county; it’s been good to me. I enjoy the people, and we do what we can,” he said.
Also during his time teaching vo ag, Bob became an honorary director on the Hardin County Fair Board, a position he held for 30 years. Since those 30 years, he has spent his days as a full-time member.
Of all the different groups and organizations he has been a part of over the years, Bob said, one of the hardest working ones is the fair board.
“I’ve been a part of a lot of different groups over the years, and the fair board is a group of hard-working individuals that sometimes, if you go to a meeting, you think they’re going to kill one another,” he joked. “But once a decision is made, they all go down the same road together, but they’re not afraid to voice their opinion, loudly.”
Each fair board member must buy a membership ticket, he explained, and as a member, they get paid $1 a year. But each member does their share of physical work, according to Bob.
“If you go out there (before the fair), you’ll see fair board members out there doing all kinds of things – work, physical work; it’s a working board. About three weeks ago, we painted roofs,” Bob said.
In fact, he added, the board does so much in preparation for the fair that people don’t even realize.
“Handicap signs have to be put up, over 800 benches have to be distributed, trash barrels have to get distributed over the fairgrounds, and some of these things can’t be done right away,” Bob said. “(Before the fair), they’re setting the tents up, the rides and everything else, then you’ve got to set the barrels and benches up around them.
“Until you’ve handled 800 benches, you don’t have any idea how many that really is; that’s a lot of work,” he added.
One of Bob’s accomplishments while on the board that he’s particularly proud of is bringing camping to the Hardin County Fair.
“I don’t know how many years I worked and worked and worked to try to get camping in,” he said. “It’s been a good thing; we’re up now to over 100 camp sites.”
Bob said he’s also responsible for bringing in the choir and county band shows, as well.
“We’ve got talented individuals in this county,” he said.
Bob has also been involved in the swine department.
Since the time he began showing, he’s noticed some positive changes in the way the community supports those showing.
“When I showed at the fair, we hoped to get market price. They would sell the champion, reserve champion and maybe a few individuals. The rest of them, they’d group them and they just went for whatever they could get market price; there was no premium,” Bob said. “Today, what this community does in support of the boys and girls is fantastic. If you’re going to buy a set of almost anything, whatever you’re going to buy, you’re going to spend $300, which is just premium per individual.”
Bob said one of his favorite things about the fair now is watching the parents during the shows when it looks as though their child is going to be chosen.
“To me, I just get all smiles when I see them smile,” he said.
The community is another reason Bob enjoys the fair. It’s seeing the people that he only gets a chance to see during fair time that brings him out.
“I enjoy people, I don’t care who they are; whether they’re on the board or they’re friends, neighbors or former students, some are people you only see once a year,” Bob said. “I’ve enjoyed the people I’ve worked with over the years. A number of individuals are now deceased, but over the years, I really enjoyed working with them.”
Bob has also been involved in several other community groups and activities, including 4-H for 49 years, several years as a Sunday school teacher, and a member of the farm bureau, Heart of Ohio chapter of the Studebaker Drivers Club and the Restorer’s and Collectors. Several of his antique tractors are on display at the fair.
Bob’s wife, Bonnie, has also been a big part of the fair in helping with the antique committee and handling all the market animals’ health papers. According to Bob, she’s been a big part of his life, as well.
“Bonnie is as much a part of me as anything; she’s always been a big part,” he said.
Bonnie and Bob don’t raise hogs anymore, but they still grow corn and beans on their 1,600-acre farm north of Kenton.
“I just enjoy keeping busy,” Bob said.
By TY THAXTON
Times staff writer