Grange displays at fair draw people from all over Ohio

| September 27, 2017

COSHOCTON – At one time in Coshocton County, there were 25 granges throughout the county. Today, the number of granges has dwindled significantly to only five remaining. However, these remaining granges come together every autumn to create amazing grange displays at the Coshocton County Fair in the agricultural building with dedicated grange members who donate their time and talents to make sure their grange display is like no other.

“There’s a lot of work that goes into putting up these displays,” said Wayne Young of Walhonding Valley Grange. “Our first fair that we put up a grange exhibit was in October 1969. Keene Hill Grange was the first one that started displaying at the fair. Jay Lawrence started it and he was quite the showman in agriculture.”

Keene Hill Grange was chartered in 1904. Since the early 1900s, Keene Hill has been displaying produce and homemade items at the fair. Each year, the grange centers their display on a certain theme. This year’s theme is old bottles. Members of the grange were at the fairgrounds on Tuesday, Sept. 26 setting up their grange display. All members agreed that being in the grange is something you’re born into and that it’s all about getting together with neighbors and fellowship.

Also at the fairgrounds on Tuesday setting up their grange display were members of the oldest grange in the county, Blue Ridge Grange. They were formed in 1867 and first set up a fair display in 1958. For them, the grange display is not only about showing off the harvests best produce and handcrafted items, but bringing a sense of nostalgia to people who come through the AG hall.

“I’ve heard a lot of people say as they come through the grange displays, my grandma used to can that,” said Nancy Somerville, member of the grange.

People come from all over Ohio to see the grange displays at the Coshocton County Fair. Janice Braniger remembers a man who came to the fair only to see the grange displays.

“There is not a grange that puts up a booth like ours,” she said. “We’ve been told it’s the nicest grange display in the state. There was a man in a wheelchair a few years ago and he lives all the way by Pennsylvania. He comes every year to see the grange displays and that’s all he sees here. After he sees all the grange displays, he goes home.”

Each grange is required by the fairboard to display a certain number of items in each grange display. Members at Tiverton Grange were at the fairgrounds on Monday, Sept. 25 making sure each item was placed correctly in their fair display. Quilts, canned foods, handmade items, craft items, pillow cases, pot holders, and the like abound. Only two weeks before the fair started, members at Tiverton got together to start the arduous task of labeling each item in the display.

“Being at the fair is interesting,” said Maxine Border of Tiverton Grange. “You meet a lot of people as they’re coming through to see all the grange displays.”

The grange displays are part of the reason why members enjoy being in the grange organization.

“The main reason I stayed involved in the grange was because of these exhibits,” said Young of Walhonding Valley Grange. “My parents have always been involved in the grange displays.”

Walhonding Valley Grange was chartered in July 1910 and has been active in grange displays at the fair since the 1930s. Members were out at the fairgrounds on Sunday, Sept. 24 setting up this year’s display.

“It’s just been a tradition here since the 30s,” said Young. “At one time, there were 14 of these adult subordinate grange exhibits. Now there are only five because sadly, grange members are getting older and passing away and younger people don’t want to get involved in the grange because it’s a lot of work.”

Sadly, Young envisions a day when grange displays are completely obsolete.

“These exhibits are truly unique,” said Young. “The AG hall is really the crown jewel of the Coshocton County Fair. Most county fairs don’t even come close to the exhibits we have. There may be a day where there are no grange exhibits because no one wants to put the work into it.”

Progressive Valley Grange had members working at the fairgrounds on Wednesday, Sept. 27 getting ready for this year’s fair. Progressive Valley has been in the county since 1928 and started setting up a grange display at the fair a year or two later.

“The canning jars take a lot of work,” said Marilyn Wyler, master of the grange. “A lot of people don’t can anymore. The men all get together (in the AG hall) and tie the corn later tonight. The potatoes were all raised by our members. The apples have all been donated by Clark’s Orchard. All the vegetables were raised and the melons, squash, and pumpkins, our own members raised them. There’s a lot that happens in the summer.”

One thing that Progressive Valley Grange does differently than other granges is they have a poster board recognizing farmers who have donated their produce to the grange throughout the year.

“We do it for the people who come to visit the fair,” said Wyler. “It’s an outstanding thing. They don’t do this in all the counties.”

A few other counties have grange displays, but arguably not as well done as Coshocton’s fair.

“Coshocton County has one of the best grange displays in the state,” said Betty Zimmer, member of Progressive Valley Grange and someone who has judged fair exhibits all over the country. “We do more than any other county there is. We have more stuff in our grange displays than any other county fair. I have never missed a day of the Coshocton County Fair.”

In addition, this December marks the 150th anniversary of the National Grange Association. Each grange exhibit had a sign marking the occasion of celebrating 150 years of giving our best.

Tags: ,

Category: Clubs & Organizations

About the Author ()

I have been employed at the Coshocton County Beacon since September 2009 as a news reporter and assistant graphic artist. I am a 2004 graduate of Newcomerstown High School and a 2008 graduate of Capital University with a bachelor’s degree in Professional Writing. I am married to John Scott and live in Newcomerstown. We have two beautiful daughters, Amelia Grace Scott and Leanna Rose Scott.

Comments are closed.