By Joseph Pratt
While thousands flock to the grandstand entertainment acts during the cool evenings at the Scioto County Fair, there are many local groups and individuals who perform free shows for the guests throughout the week, and with nearly just as much energy.
Of the many performers, some include high school marching bands and some are local artists.
The fair provides the opportunity for these locals to perform at the south gate for the thousands of people who go for the rides, food, and animals.
“We like try to bring some local folks in and give them a chance to be heard and also provide entertainment for the guests,” Scioto Country Fair President Robert Seaman said. “This also goes along with the marching bands.”
For many school bands, the fair is the first public performance of the season. For many of the first-year students, it is even the first public performance they’ve ever experienced.
“Personally, I think there are many benefits to the fair performances,” Portsmouth High School (PHS) Band Director Matt Swintek said. “It gives us a nice prep for the season and gives us an early performance way earlier than we would have had otherwise. It really helps get all the early jitters out.”
Swintek explained that the band had four selections completely down when the students performed on Monday, but they only performed three of them, so that they could keep some of the show secret for the upcoming season.
“We did great. It was a longer set than we were expecting, but they had a 30-minute set and they did beautifully,” Swintek said. “They got tired towards the end, because we had an extensive rehearsal earlier that day, but they did well and we had a highly receptive audience.”
Monica Campbell, PHS Marching Band drum major, has performed at the fair four separate years.
“The crowd is more than just Portsmouth fans,” Campbell explained. “The fair is full of fans from all over and everyone is just very supportive, which is very nice.”
Campbell said that she was proud of the band and the performance the members put on at the fair on Monday afternoon.
“We are progressing so fast and everyone is so eager to get ready and just do it,” Campbell said. “The dedication of the band was very noticeable at the fair. I am definitely looking forward to the upcoming season.”
Portsmouth, Minford, and Clay all performed at the fair on Monday; New Boston and East performed at the fair on Tuesday; Valley and Northwest performed at the fair on Wednesday; Green and Wheelersburg performed at the fair on Thursday; and Portsmouth West and South Webster performed at the fair on Friday.
Many local bands and individual artists performed throughout the week as well, including local Shane Runion, who has quickly been gaining more fame.
“It was awesome performing at the fair,” Runion said. “We had a great crowd with all kinds of people wearing their Shane Runion t-shirts. People were singing my songs back to me; it was a great feeling.”
Runion said that a local kid even got on stage and played drums with the band.
“I was really excited when Jerry Gampp, who is on the Scioto County Fair Board, invited me to play at the South Gate Tent, right where everyone walks in,” Runion said. “I can’t tell you how awesome it is for people like Jerry, and the folks at the fair, to support local performers, because nothing feels better to an artist than having their hometown behind them. To see everyone coming to watch the show and saying, ‘We’ve been following you for a long time now. We’re so excited for you,’ means the world to me and I appreciate the opportunity to get to play a show for our hometown crowd.”
Runion said he dreams of playing on the Scioto County Grand Stage someday.
“I think every artist wants to play their hometown fair and see all the folks who have supported them through the years,” Runion concluded, “and I certainly love my hometown.”
The Scioto County Fair will conclude on Saturday. Grandstand entertainment will feature Calvalcade of Thrills Demolition Derby at 5 p.m. The Junior Fair Livestock Sale will be held at 10 a.m.
Reach Joseph Pratt at 740-353-3101, ext. 1932, or by Twitter @JosephPratt03.