It is with great sadness that we mourn the loss of a beloved member of the Allen County Fair family.
Jay Begg began his career in agriculture as a 4-H member at the Putnam County Fair where he exhibited dairy cattle in the Columbus Grove Livestock Club for 10 years. He was also active in the Allen County Dairy Service Unit, selling milk in the Fair Booth beginning at the young age of 8 or 9 and later serving as Treasurer of the organization. Jay’s involvement with the Allen County Fair began with his children joining the Cairo Livestock 4-H Club. Soon after he became a 4-H advisor and started the Rockport Ag 4-H Club and became an assistant superintendent of the Beef department and board member.
Jay served the Allen County Agricultural Society as a member of the Board of Directors beginning in 1987 where he served for 9 years, serving as director in charge of the Harness Racing and the Beef Department, as well as assistant Jr. Fair Director before becoming Fair Manager in 1995.
During his first year as fair manager, Jay decided to bring the ticket sales to the Administration Building. After many years of concert ticket sales being sold in the Youth Activities Building, Jay moved the ticket sales to the accommodate the multiple phone lines needed to permit credit card sales and phone sales for the first time at the fair. For the next 17 years, Jay oversaw many improvements to the Allen County Fair. The expansion of the Jr. Fair Livestock Campgrounds, installation of water and sewer to the Concession Campgrounds, building of the new livestock campgrounds restroom and shower facitities, the new Rabbit Barn and Sheep Barn, air conditioning added to the Youth Activities Building, addition to the Show Arena by the Allen County Cattlemen’s, the addition of the west parking lot behind Walmart with a new ticket gate entrance to the west side of the Fairgrounds, to the newly constructed Schmidthorst Pavilion. A fair mascot was created for the first time in the history of the fair and Moorice and to this day is a big part of the fair. A Walk of Honor brick project was created in the Grandstand Plaza to honor those individuals who have volunteered at the fair. Jay also started a beautification project at the fair to help improve the fairgrounds landscaping. The Brick Planter Project was created at the south end of the fairgrounds near the livestock barns, where with the help of the Allen County Engineers, cement planters were built replacing the wooden planters already there, allowing individuals or companies to purchase engraved bricks to be placed on the face of the planters. A Planter Sponsorship was also created to allow area businesses or 4-H groups to sponsor a landscape planter area. To help raise scholarship money for Jr. Fair kids, a Farmer of the Year Award was created to help raise money for these individuals, allowing the Allen County Agricultural Society to award several $500 scholarships each year. Jay implemented the Jr. Fair Photo ID program, allowing a more secure way for Jr. Fair exhibitors to pick up their Jr. Fair premiums with a photo ID and allow entry into the fair. Jay was also vital in keeping the Allen County Fair 4-H program here in Allen County by allowing the 4-H office to be relocated to the Administration Building on the Fairgrounds when funding was cut for the Ohio State University Allen County Extension Office. It still operates from the fairgrounds today.
Jay and the Allen County Engineers Road Crew saw to many improvements of the midway and surrounding grounds road repairs here on fairgrounds through the Allen County Road Program he implemented with the Engineers office. Jay was also actively involved in implementing the Allen County Fair sponsorship packages that allows areas businesses to also to take part in supporting the Allen County Fair. A Wall of Fame was created on the West side of the Grandstand, showcasing the top sponsors to the Allen County Fair each year. The Allen County Fair Website, Twitter and Facebook page was also created and the fair became active in social media. The Allen County Fair Agricultural Society Foundation was also created, a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt charitable organization allowing individuals to bequest money to the foundation and support the Fair and Jr. Fair. Online tickets sales were also implemented through 168 Tickets LLC, to allow fairgoers to purchase concert tickets online, after many years of using preprinted concert tickets. After many years using the Martech Entry Program, Jay switched to Showorks to allow the fair for the first time to take online entries for both Open class and Jr. Fair. In 2000, Jay created the Allen County Agricultural Society Hall of Fame to honor individuals for their years of service and dedication to the success of the Allen County Agricultural Society. In that same year, the marquee on St. Rt. 309 and St. Rt. 117 was replaced with bigger lighted marquee and a marquee sponsorship program with area business was created to help with the costs of the marquees. Jay also brought in many non-season events such as the BMW Rally, The National Trappers Association and the Red Power Round Up Show, while also continuing to work with the fair’s annual events such as the 4-Wheel Jamboree, Ohio National Motorcycle Race, Tri State Gun Show and Max’s Flea Market and Water Dog Races.
Jay also served on many other committees during his time as fair manager including: Executive, Advisory and Long Range Planning; Audit/Budget/Finance; Concession; Midway & Rides; Entertainment; Building/Grounds/Equipment; Gate Control/Parking/Security/Safety; Harness Racing; Publicity/Advertising/Promotions; Personnel; Parade; Rent; Scholarship; and Jr. Fair Livestock Sale.
During his time as fair manager, Jay also served on Lima-Allen County Chamber of Commerce Board, Rotary Club, Allen County Farm Bureau, Allen County Cattlemen’s, Ohio Fair Managers Association Board of Directors, and was a graduate of 1994 Allen-Lima Leadership Class.
Jay Begg was a valuable part of the Allen County Agricultural Society for 26 years. He always led by example, by being actively involved in the day to day operations of the fair. He supplied the fair staff and volunteers with updated tools and best methods and ideas to do their jobs. Jay kept the Allen County Fair relevant and viable in today’s evolving and changing world and always encouraged that change in his staff and volunteers. He continued to contribute to the Allen County Fair through his position as Allen County Commissioner. His leadership and evolving idea of change for the betterment of the Allen County has left a lasting legacy. Jay was inducted into the Allen County Fair Agricultural Society Hall of Fame in 2016.
Jay will be missed and we will continue to make the fairgrounds a destination that he helped create and build. Please keep his wife, children, family and friends in your prayers at this difficult time.