A Photographic History of Goofy Governors at the Ohio State Fair

From Mike DeWine to John Gilligan, see the state's top political leaders eating dessert, wearing a cowboy hat, riding the Giant Slide and more.

Dave Ghose
Columbus Monthly
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and Fran DeWine eat a cream puff at Schmidt's while grandchild Steven Dudukovich, then 6, looks on at the 2019 Ohio State Fair.

The Ohio State Fair is back in full, starting its 12-day run on July 27. For some, that means the welcome return of concerts, midway rides, deep-fried treats and butter sculptures. For others—or at least this writer—it means something else: goofy governors in all their glory.

Perhaps no gubernatorial tradition is quite as fraught as the opening of the Ohio State Fair. Until the pandemic came along and put the ritual on hold, the state’s top political leader was expected to kick off the festivities and then spend some time wandering the grounds with photographers in tow. The opening-day tradition gives governors the chance to showcase their common touch, but just as often, it results in awkward optics. After all, not everybody should wear a cowboy hat, and there’s no dignified way to eat a cream puff.

To celebrate this tradition, we dug up some of our favorite photos of governors at the fair. Enjoy the show.