BUCYRUS — In the early 1970s Michael Hoepf, a Crawford County resident, entered his first county fair. More than 40 years later he is still participating in the fair as one of the oldest, continual competitors.
During the initial years Hoepf focused on produce, entering his homegrown squash, grapes, apples and other fruits. For a few years he dabbled in wine, entering blueberry, elderberry and even an unusual red beet wine. All of the fruit was grown on his property and the process of converting fruit into wine consumed at least two years.
One year he even won a prize for the “largest onion,” but his fondest memory was his entry of Lodi cooking apples many years ago. Hoepf laughed as he recalled the story.
“I plated three beautiful, 4-inch specimens and placed them in the display area. Later I returned to find the plate decorated with a prized blue ribbon, but the apples were missing. Apparently they looked so good that someone ate them after they were judged.”
That anecdote says a lot about the visual appeal of his winning entry.
When his children got involved with 4H and showed an interest in raising rabbits, Hoepf worked with the fair organization as an educator. He voluntarily mentored students on the intricacies of grooming and caring for animals.
His involvement with the fair went above and beyond being an exhibitor.
During the mid-80s, Hoepf’s dry flower arrangements appeared at the fair and years later he began to incorporate live flowers in his arrangements. He has been showing his unique floral designs at the fair for more than 30 years. Every one of his flowers was grown in his own backyard. There were no exceptions.
In recent years he has focused on floral designs and flower specimens, primarily gladiola and dahlias. Hoepf works hard throughout the year cultivating his magnificent dahlias and gladiola and he is always pleased to see his entries in the Crawford County Fair Flower Building. His lifelong passion for flowers has found an outlet at the fair. If you visit the flower barn, you are certain to see his the culmination of his efforts.
More than 2,000 “gladdies” and 200 dahlias adorn his own yard and the array of colorful plants allow him to select the best candidates for his fair entries. Each flower is delicately harvested at precisely the right moment and carefully prepared for transport to the Crawford County Fair.
Hoepf humbly admits that he has had success with his floral entries at the fair and hopes to do well at the 2016 fair.
Since starting to compete in the county fair in the 70’s, Hoepf estimates he has won nearly 1,000 ribbons and a dozen Best of Show rosettes.
Although he enjoys the satisfaction of seeing a ribbon on one of his entries, his true satisfaction comes from diligently working to produce the entry. His countless hours of labor reflect his commitment to excellence.
Hoepf’s love of county fairs and flowers extends beyond Crawford County.
Having attained the necessary training and education he became a certified floral design judge in 2012, and that permits him to judge floral designs and flower specimens at other county fairs. In 2016, he will travel throughout the state and use his expertise in other flower competitions. He also will offer constructive criticism and help any competitor interested in learning more about his craft.
Once the Crawford County Fair concludes, Michael Hoepf will focus on the 2016 Ohio State Fair, which begins later this month and continues through early August. Hoepf will participate in the gladiolus competition and the floral design portion of the fair. Participating at the state fair allows Hoepf to gain valuable experience while learning from the other serious competitors that participate at the state level.
Michael Hoepf had done Crawford County proud. because he has become one of the foremost authorities on flower gardening in the state. His floral designs and flower specimens have won awards at local, state and national levels and he has been a fixture at the annual county fair for more than 40 years. People like Michael Hoepf help to make the Crawford County Fair the wonderful event that it is!
Chuck Jakubchak is a free-lance writer from Strongsville. He enjoys county fairs and appreciates the people who work to make them happen.