Fair leads to friendship

MIAMI COUNTY — From “farming in the dirt” of the dairy barn to trying to out do one another in the show arena, Miami County Junior Fair board President Curtis Shellenberger and Vice-President Michael Bair grew up side by side as they participated in 4-H, then FFA and fair activities.

Shellenberger is a graduate of Newton High School, and Michael Bair is a graduate of Miami East High School. Both are 10-year members of 4-H and participated in their FFA chapters.

They grew up “farming the dirt” with toy tractors on the barn floor to pass the time. The duo later competed against one another in their divisions for champion showman in the dairy cattle shows.

“Pretty much our whole lives we’ve known each other,” Shellenberger said. “Do you remember not knowing each other?”

Bair said their families’ cows always tied up across from one another each year at the dairy barn, making it easy to become fast friends during the week.

“We were the only kids in the barn, and it grew from there, really,” Bair said as he milked out cows Monday evening as younger children looked on.

“It’s kind of strange to think that we’ve known each other our whole lives and we’ve done this together, and now it’s like closing out a chapter in our lives,” Shellenberger said.

Shellenberger said his favorite fair memories include showing against one another each year.

“Showmanship is always fun,” Shellenberger said, who won it last year. Bair chimed in that it seemed as though the two traded off and on who took home the trophy for showmanship — making it an even split for the honor over a decade.

“I’d win one year, then he would the next,” Bair said.

Shellenberger graduated from Edison State Community College with an associate’s degree in agriculture business, and Bair plans to enroll in the same classes at the college this fall. Both live on active Miami County dairy farms with about 50 cows each and both have plans to take over those operations in the future. Shellenberger also showed at the Ohio Summer Dairy Show and participated at the show as a judge.

“There were so many high-quality cattle there, and all of them deserved to be there. It’s also neat to see more people in the dairy industry and network with people,” he said.

The pair have also represented Miami County Junior Fair as royalty. Curtis Shellenberger was crowned as the 2020 Fair King this year, and Bair represented Miami County Junior Fair as King in 2018.

Both have helped out with various junior fair shows during their tenure on the junior fair board, noting it’s a week filled with a lot of hard work but plenty of fun once the work was done.

Michael Bair is the son of David and Annette Bair of Troy, and Curtis Shellenberger is the son of Nick and Jennifer Shellenberger of Pleasant Hill.