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Sheppard breaks record with visit to fairs

King Bradley Sheppard displays his sash covered with pins from fairs from across Ohio.

Bradley Sheppard has spent many years attending the Muskingum County Fair, something that brings a smile to his face when he recalls showing his various animals or helping out around the grounds. At the conclusion of last year’s fair, however, Sheppard had accomplished something it appears no one else has ever attempted much yet achieved, he visited every other fair throughout Ohio while being our local fair king.

His appearance has inspired other fair boards to begin crowning kings during their annual fairs, instead of just traditionally queens, and after nearly 13,000 miles traversing the state, Sheppard said he’s excited to see if his endeavor has inspired anyone else to follow in his footsteps, even if his fair days, at least as a youngster, have now concluded.

The 177th Muskingum County Blue Ribbon Fair begins Sunday, August 13, and runs through Saturday, August 19.

Sheppard has always been one to stand out to our reporters, from our organization’s early beginnings in 2018, when Sheppard was the Junior Pork Ambassador, having shown pigs since he was just two years old, to our coverage in 2021 when Sheppard was crowned king, he always seemed to be everywhere during the week of fair with many jokingly saying around the fairgrounds that if something was going on it was likely Sheppard was going to be there.

Sheppard had visited other fairs before while he was the Junior Pork Ambassador but when he was crowned king in 2021, after the previous year’s fair had been canceled due to the pandemic, Sheppard said he set his mind up that he was going to visit every fair in the entire state, all 95 of them.

It’s a task that wouldn’t be easy, visiting as many as five fairs in one day and putting many miles on his vehicle as he wore his sash that increasingly became more and more full of other various fair’s pins, a token of appreciation given to visiting royalty.

A close-up view of King Bradley Sheppard’s sash with pins from various Ohio fairs.

“All are unique in their own way,” Sheppard said when asked if he had a favorite before smiling and saying ‘Muskingum County of course.”

The endeavor took lots of planning and lots of gas, at least 500 gallons by his rough calculations, but he says it was all worth it. During the 175th Muskingum County Fair (2021), Sheppard stayed on the grounds all week, involved in all the activities local royalty is expected to partake in, but after it was over, his record-breaking endeavor started to become a reality.

Each county in Ohio hosts their own county fair each year, absent Licking County, which instead has the Hartford Fair, which just concluded Saturday, which is part of seven independent fairs run around the state. Then there is the Ohio State Fair, which lasts for 12 days and has the highest attendance by far, located north of Columbus.

Allen County, in northwest Ohio, was the first fair Sheppard attended after being crowned Muskingum County Fair King. He would visit dozens in the following months, from August to October, putting 4,358 miles on his vehicle, which ended with the Fairfield County Fair, which is the last fair held each year, typically during the second week of October.

It would be eight more months and well into 2022 when Sheppard could get back at his goal. Each year the Paulding County Fair, located again in northwest Ohio, starts out the fair season, typically on the second full week of June.

Between that second week of June and the third full week of August, when Muskingum County typically has our county fair, Sheppard had lots of places to visit.

In those roughly two months, Sheppard traveled 8,559 miles and visited all of the remaining fairs. His very last visit was to the Jefferson County Fair, which occurs the same week as Muskingum’s Fair, along with five others. The week before, he visited 12 fairs, five in one day.

With 95 fairs under his belt, and many pins to show for it, along with 12,917 miles traveled across Ohio’s roadways, Sheppard did something that it appears no one else has ever done, he visited them all.

He did let it slip he had a few favorites at the end of our interview, after Muskingum County’s Fair, of course. The Hartford Fair, the Pickaway County Fair, the Holmes County Fair, the Columbiana County Fair and the Mahoning County Fair were his top five.

“Some counties don’t have a king so my goal was that by going to all these fairs I’d hopefully help encourage it,” said Sheppard. “I traveled to many as Pork Ambassador, and hopefully this helps get more royalty visiting other fairs, sharing ideas, and promoting the wonderful benefits of 4-H and raising animals.”

In a way, Sheppard’s endeavor was almost always meant to be. He said when other royalty would visit the Muskingum County Fair, he always helped show them around and that continued when he became Pork Ambassador, getting to showcase to the visiting royalty the very best of what we had to offer, including the food, which according to Sheppard, everyone always seems to love.

“I’d always give them one our pins,” he recalled, and those visits left an impression on him, people took time out of their busy lives, parents often driving their kids, to visit our local fair, why couldn’t he repay the favor and visit theirs, he would often think.

Sheppard says he hopes that his journey encourages others, even if they can’t visit all 95 fairs, to visit a few and make a lasting impression outside our local area, maybe even the world at large.

He seems to have done just that, the 176th Muskingum County Fair Queen, Miss Eliza Jane Morrow, told us at the conclusion of last year’s fair she wanted to see how many she could visit before this year’s fair. This week we will catch up with her and find out.

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