Sunday, July 25, 2004

State Fair evolution: Shorter, diverse

Hispanic events join the traditional

By Sara Thorson
The Associated Press

COLUMBUS - The Ohio State Fair has traditionally been as American as apple pie-on-a-stick.

A quick look at the 151st Ohio State Fair, which opens Aug. 4 and runs through Aug. 15 at the state fairgrounds in Columbus:

Cost: Admission is $8 for adults, $7 for children 5 to 12 and seniors over 60. Children under 5 admitted free.

Hours: 9 a.m. to 10 p.m, except Aug. 15, when gates close at 8 p.m. Some exhibits and the midway have slightly different hours.

Parking: $5 per vehicle. Parking areas can be accessed from Interstate 71 at the 17th Avenue exit and the Hudson Street exit at Silver Drive. Handicapped parking and AAA Road Service shuttles available.

Attendance: Last year's event attracted 1,011,331 visitors.

More information: For concert and event information, visit the Ohio State Fair Web site or call the information line at (614) 644-3247.

Source: Ohio State Fair

This year, fair officials have increased their marketing efforts toward a community that might identify more with the traditions of other countries - the state's Hispanic population.

Hispanics are the nation's fastest-growing minority group, and their Ohio population grew 4.4 percent between 2000 and 2002, according to Census data. They now number about 230,000, or 2 percent of the state's population.

Fair spokeswoman Christina Minier said there are more events on the Aug. 4-15 schedule this year geared toward that community.

"Fiesta Ohio," a celebration of Hispanic culture, is back for a second year. It features groups performing Mexican, Aztec and other dance music Aug. 14 on the Main Street Stage. That and the Aug. 8 concert by Latina artist Jennifer PeIna are outreach efforts to the Hispanic community, Minier said.

Phillip Barbosa, a commissioner with the state's Commission on Hispanic/Latino Affairs, said the first "Fiesta Ohio" event last year was a success.

Barbosa said many Hispanic families identify with events at the fair.

"It's more cost-effective for a lot of families than a visit to Cedar Point," he said.

Minier said "Fiesta Ohio" will remain on the fair schedule annually with one additional rotating event to celebrate different cultures each year.

This year it's the African Fest on Aug. 7, featuring West African and masquerade dancers and African Reggae.

Ohio families have just two weekends to visit the state fair this year - the 12-day schedule is the shortest in almost 30 years.

The fair's general manager, Virgil Strickler, said the choice to trim days was made to keep overhead costs down and reduce the time the fair competed for visitors with other events, such as concerts.

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