With the exception of a few dozen sheep bleating and baaing as they worked to get acclimated to their new surroundings for the next week, Sunday evening was a relatively quiet one at the Cochranton Fairgrounds.
Everyone was far too busy shoveling sawdust, raking hay and everything else it takes to get ready for one of Crawford County’s oldest traditions.
The 84th annual Cochranton Community Fair gets under way today and runs through Saturday, featuring a number of activities and attractions from the Miss Cochranton Pageant to a goat milking competition to a parade and even a rabbit dress-up contest.
“It’s the highlight of the summer for a lot of people,” said John McMillen, chairman of the rabbit department.
McMillen would know as well as anyone — the Saegertown resident has been attending the Cochranton Fair for as long as he can remember.
“Twenty-three years I’ve been working with rabbits,” he said.
It’s become such a tradition for McMillen and his family that even his wedding this summer had to be arranged around the dates of the fair.
“When we picked a date, we had to make sure it was in the middle of July,” McMillen said.
“I knew August was out,” said John’s new bride, Ali. “I thought it has to be in June if we plan on taking a honeymoon.”
The couple wed on June 16 and did take a trip to the Outer Banks for their honeymoon. Now they are busy preparing for another Cochranton Fair.
“I knew from the start what I was getting into,” said Ali, who is orignially from Philadelphia.
On Sunday, she and John were working to install rabbit cages in the barns for exhibitors. John said the rabbits would arrive between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. today. Judging takes place at 8 a.m. Tuesday.
For some, leaving the Cochranton Fairgrounds during its six-day run isn’t even an option. Nichol Loucks, 13, of Centerville will spend the entire week in the barn with her horses just as she has each of the last four or five years.
“Some people just never go home,” John said.
Then again this is the week several area farmers, young and old, most look forward to.
“It’s the time when they get to put everything together,” John said. “It means a lot for the 4-Hers. It’s a big deal.”
Lisa Byers can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.