With coronavirus numbers continuing to drop, organizers of the Canfield and Trumbull County fairs say the popular summer celebrations will seem just like old times — if the pandemic keeps waning.
While the fairs cautiously returned to public events last summer, now plans are to bring the fairs back in full force.
Barry Brown, the new Trumbull County Fair board president, said the fair is set for July 12 to 17 and is planning new additions, as well as having several prefair events in the coming months.
The theme this year is “Hometown Touch” with efforts to get the public more involved.
He said one new program is a competition with all Trumbull County schools. Each will show its school spirit by painting a 55-gallon steel drum barrel with its chosen themes to be displayed. The schools also will create flower arrangements on top of the barrels.
“Fairhaven School and Workshop have already taken two barrels. We want to get different schools involved,” Brown said.
The barrels will be judged by residents of Shepherd of the Valley Assisted Living. Winners of the competition will receive plaques.
Brown said already more than 14 schools have enrolled in the competition, and they will have until July 1 to complete their barrel.
To get the fairgrounds beautified, a community cleanup and tree planting event is set for April 23.
Brown said the senior and junior fair boards have been asked to take part, as well as local Boy Scouts and the Trumbull County Sheriff’s Office.
“That day we will be planting 160 pine trees at the shooting range on the fairgrounds, which is used by the sheriff’s department. This will be an Earth Day event. It will also be a way for the Scouts and other kids to meet and work with the sheriff’s department,” Brown said.
Local businesses can get involved by decorating and beautifying mulch beds at the fairgrounds.
“We want to give businesses a chance to give back,” Brown said.
He said that on July 13, any senior citizen, military personnel, police and first responders will be given free admission.
“We want to show our appreciation to all these groups,” he said.
Brown said the 15-member fair board is expecting full attendance at the fair.
“It was a struggle for us in 2020 and 2021. We did the best of what we could. We see that with the COVID numbers declining, we can see a more normal attended fair for 2022,” he said.
Brown said the fair this summer will feature harness racing on opening day, a “Tough Tractor” show and a show of vehicles called the Russell King Memorial to remember King, a local businessman. Also planned is the Ohio State Tractor Pulling Association, High Steel rodeo event, car and bike show, carriage and horse pull, demolition derby and fireworks.
Some other prefair events include a sports card show May 21 and monster truck show on June 10 and 11. He said the monster truck show will be a popular feature.
Brown said the three Trumbull County commissioners have come to the fairgrounds and seen the 4-H building and a restroom building have aged. Plans are to demolish the buildings.
“We want to build a new 4-H building near where the 4-H members show their animals,” Brown said.
“With the community and the students in the schools getting involved with this year, we can show the fair in 2022 has a Hometown Touch,” he said.
“We are planning for another great fair this year,” said George Roman, who handles entertainment and concessions for the Canfield Fair. “If the COVID numbers keep dropping and stay low and disappear, this summer’s fair will be like what we had in 2019 and before.”
The fair is set for Aug. 31 to Sept. 5 with the theme, “The Canfield Fair. Something to Crow About.”
He said in 2021, the fair celebrated its 175th year and many of the faithful vendors who have attended year after year took part. But there could be a change this year.
“We are expecting to lose some of our older vendors this year. They decided that last year would be their last year. They wanted to be there for the 175th,” Roman said.
He said the fair board will be looking for more vendors, but noted it is more challenging because younger generations don’t seem to want to take it on.
“The vendors did well in 2021, and we are sad to see some of them decide to go. We will focus on getting new vendors,” Roman said.
He said the 2021 fair was a chance for people who had not seen each other for more than a year and a half because of the pandemic to come together.
“The people were glad to be there, and the vendors were glad to see them,” he said — noting many were upset when the fair was canceled in 2020.
Only the junior fair took place in 2020.
Roman said he and other fair organizers want this year to be like it was before the pandemic.
“People were very happy about 2021, and they will be even more excited in 2022. They are glad to get out and see each other. Whether they spent $5 or $500 at the fair, people last year were just glad to be able to have a fair again and to see people we had not seen for over a year and a half,” Roman said.
For 2022, Roman said the rides, food, games and other regular fair attractions will return with “two major concerts” being finalized this spring.
As for safety concerns last year, the Mahoning County Health District was at the fair each day to help answer questions and address concerns of staying safe, with masks being optional due to most events held outside.
“They were there for the support for people, but everyone remained safe,” Roman said.
He said cleanup days will take place before the fair. The fairgrounds are used throughout the year for home and garden shows, horse shows, a train show, an antique show and more.
“The fairgrounds get utilized all summer and up to the fair week,” Roman said.
He said the fair earned some national attention last summer as the Carnival Warehouse News listed the Canfield Fair, which posted attendance numbers above 285,000 for its six-day event, among the Top 50 fairs in North America based on attendance figures.
“We are thrilled to be honored by Carnival Warehouse and thank everyone who came out to support this year’s fair. We are already working on plans to make the 2022 Canfield Fair better than ever,” Canfield Fair Board President Bob Jarvis said last year of the recognition.