By SEAN BARRON
If it’s food, fun, Ferris wheels, funnel cakes and lots of folks spread out over more than 350 acres, it can mean only one thing: The 173rd annual Canfield Fair is underway.
“She loves kids,” Brandy Kemmer said about Sky, her 11-year-old white miniature horse that she was showcasing during the fair’s opening day Wednesday. “I’ve had her coming to this fair since she was 3 months old.”
The feeling seemed mutual, as several children in and next to one of the pony barns patted and made small talk with Sky as part of their fun on the event’s inaugural day.
Attendance seemed sparse early Wednesday afternoon. Lines for the two Ferris wheels and other rides and games were few and far between, as was the case for those who couldn’t resist the sausage sandwiches, lemon shakes, pizza, french fries, elephant ears and other longtime fair staples.
It won’t be long, however, before that will change, said George Roman III, the fair’s director of entertainment and concessions.
“It continues to grow,” he said, adding that the numerous animal exhibits remain a major attraction for many fairgoers. “Agriculture is still a vital part of the economy in Mahoning County.”
Another factor weighing in favor of a high attendance is ideal weather. The forecast through Monday calls for temperatures in the mid- to high 70s, low humidity and a small chance for spotty showers Sunday and Monday, according to Eric Wilhelm, meteorologist for 21 WFMJ-TV, The Vindicator’s broadcast partner.
This year’s event will feature 600 to 700 food, business and other vendors. In addition, a ribbon-cutting ceremony will take place today to usher in the new $8.1 million Junior Fair building at Goshen and Wetmore lanes, for which about $3 million has been raised. The facility’s official groundbreaking ceremony is set for Sept. 25, and it should be operational by next year, Roman noted.
“We’re proud that 4-H has grown to the point where we need the new building,” Roman said, referring to what likely will be one of its early primary uses.
Kemmer, of Canfield, said her horse is anything but shy around large crowds, especially children. The animal has been featured as part of a variety of 4-H promotions and has been used as a mascot, she continued.
“She loves the attention. We can walk her down the midway and she goes right along,” said Kemmer, who was crowned as the fair’s 4-H queen in 1996.
Her two children, Nataley Kemmer, 16, and Zachery Kemmer, 19, are among the 11 Royal Court members vying for this year’s honors. The 2019 4-H King and Queen will be announced at 2 p.m. today on a stage adjacent to the Grandstand.
For years, the Canfield Fair has adopted the motto “Something to crow about.” You could say that Wednesday morning, many spectators found something to cheer about, as they filled the grandstand to watch a series of cheerleading demonstrations.
Eighteen area high schools were represented for the free event. Kicking things off for the crowd were several dozen cheerleaders from Canfield High School, who performed a series of choreographed, coordinated and synchronized moves and balances, along with the usual front and back flips, hand and body twirls, jumps and cheers.
The fair, which is steeped in tradition and often dubbed as the “six best days of summer,” also serves as the site for certain special occasions that include high-school reunions, Roman said. Members of a 50-year class reunion plan to visit this year, he added.