DeWine opens his first Ohio State Fair as governor

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine opened and toured the 2019 Ohio State Fair on Wednesday with the gusto of a Greene County farm boy at heart, recounting 34 years of 4-H Club projects with his eight kids, sampling strawberry ice cream and sharing a creme puff with his wife, Fran, and their 6-year-old grandson.

DeWine strolled through barns, petted sheep, shook hands with farmers, snapped selfies with kids and checked out the butter carvings of cow, calf and the Apollo 11 crew.

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It was the melding of his two worlds: farming and retail politics. DeWine, an Ohio politico for more than four decades, grew up in a farm family that ran a seed business. He recalled coming to the state fair as a child and being impressed with the animals and natural resources area.

At the Taste of Ohio, DeWine had an impromptu conversation with Amber Duffield, whose 18-year-old son Tyler Jarrell died two years ago at the state fair when the Fire Ball thrill ride catastrophically failed, flinging Jarrell and other riders to the pavement. Duffield, who has been advocating for increased ride inspections, showed DeWine her necklace charms that pay tribute to her late son.

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Duffield said coming to the fair now is “beautifully awful. The beauty is we want to continue to hold dear to our values in what we believe are important. We do hold that the fair is very significant to our state, and it’s been a tradition.”

DeWine said he believes the amusement rides are safe, but he personally doesn’t like them, saying he may venture on the Skyrider chair lift that carries people above the midway.

Fran DeWine, who participated in 4-H cooking and sewing as a child, held a cooking demonstration, showing children how to grind wheat into flour, make dough and assemble pizza.

The fair is expected to draw more than 800,000 visitors over the 12-day run. First started in 1849, the state fair features performances by musicians, jugglers, magicians, comedians; competitions for baking, horticulture, baton twirling, home brewing, drone racing and more; and so many animals — lambs, goats, pigs, poultry, cows, dogs.

Other governors have spent the night at the fair, sleeping in barns or camping in tents. DeWine said it’s up to his wife to say if they’ll sleep over at the fair.

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