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Kaleidoscope: A trip back to Geauga County Fair; it's sad to see historic venues burn

by KEN LAHMERS | EDITOR Published: September 14, 2016 1:00 AM
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In 1994, I first attended the Great Geauga County Fair. On the Saturday of Labor Day weekend this year I got the chance to visit for the second time.

It is the oldest county fair in Ohio, having started in 1923. This was its 194th year. It is one of the state's most popular fairs, attracting just under 200,000 people annually.

The weather that Saturday and the entire Labor Day weekend was fantastic, and I didn't want to waste it by staying inside all day.

I had three fairs in counties bordering Portage to choose from; Mahoning in Canfield and Stark in Canton also run over that holiday weekend.

Canfield is considered Ohio's largest county fair, but I was astound-ed by Geauga's crowd.

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There is a massive parking area at the fairgrounds just north of Burton's square. I had to park so far out that a tractor-pulled shuttle wagon was the easiest way to get to the entrance gates.

The fairgrounds is situated on about 150 acres. It has taken place there since 1853. For about 25 years prior to that, it was held on Burton's square.

Although there have been new buildings added throughout the years, the fairgrounds still boasts some structures dating to the 1800s.

The domestic arts hall originally was built in 1856 and rebuilt in 1889, and the flower hall was built in 1890. Both are on the National Register of Historic Places.

IN ADDITION to the large grandstand, there's a smaller one that replicates one built in 1892. Part of the fair's main office once served as the C&E interurban railway station.

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The fair boasts about 12,000 exhibits each year, has a huge midway with many food stands, plus hundreds of animals and dozens of business domains.

One of the really neat spots is the natural resources area, which boasts all kinds of exhibits relating to nature, plus a pond where fishing takes place.

Pig races are a popular attraction, as are an exhibit of military vehicles, weapons and memorabilia; chicken flying contests, hot-air balloon ascensions, bull riding and Amish high-wheel cart races.

Geauga doesn't display nearly as many classic tractors as do the Portage and Wayne fairs. But I admired a beautifully restored 1952 "red belly" Ford 8N. My grandpa had a 1950 8N, which was the first tractor I ever drove.

I found the food prices at many of the stands higher than at some other fairs. I searched high and low for $1 hot dogs, but couldn't find any. Portage and Medina fairs have them.

Many of the Geauga stands were selling hot dogs for $3 to $3.50 apiece. Too much for my blood!

And I couldn't find an ice cream stand that was as good of a value as those I've found at the Portage, Wayne and Medina fairs. Wayne has one where they'll pile your cone as high as you want for one price.

I also attended the

Portage County Fair

the week before Geauga. This year, it was pretty hot the evening I went to Randolph, but the Geauga temperature was just right.


It's always sad to hear about the demise of something historical that I have fond memories of or have visited during my travels.

In recent weeks, I found out about the unfortunate demise of two such locations -- both of which were victims of fires.

When I attended the Greenmen cross country team's opening meet of the 2015 season at Boettler Park in Green, I admired a restored brick one-room schoolhouse on the grounds.

Built in 1885, it sits beside a pond on the entrance road to the park and was known as Green District School No. 13.

This summer, five teenagers confessed to setting the building on fire, burning the roof off and destroying most everything inside.

An engineer told city officials the walls remain solid and there is a possibility the remainder of the structure can be rebuilt.

Then on the Saturday of Labor Day weekend, Scott's 10th Street Antiques Mall in Cambridge burned down.

I had been there five or six years ago to visit the Hopalong Cassidy Museum, which housed several items related to actor William Boyd, who portrayed "Hoppy" in films and on TV.

Boyd was born in 1895 in Hendrysburg, about 15 miles east of Cambridge in Belmont County, and grew up in Cambridge. Since 1991, the city has hosted an annual festival in his honor.

The museum was housed in a brick addition to the original frame structure, which was built in 1922 as Wells Hospital and later operated as St. Francis Hospital.

It ceased to operate as a hospital in 1968, when Guernsey Memorial Hospital -- now Southeast Medical Center -- opened.

Reportedly, the Hoppy items were not damaged and hopefully can be displayed somewhere else in the future.

Email: klahmers@recordpub.com

Phone: 300-541-9400 ext. 4189

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