Geauga County Agricultural Society members gave Geauga County Commissioners a peek at the upcoming fair Tuesday.
Fair Board President David Parker and fair Secretary Paul Harris provided commissioners with an update on how the fair is progressing and where it’s headed.
Mr. Parker gave a capsulated picture of last year’s fair, noting that it began with a rain storm before the heat was turned on. The weather failed to keep away the crowds, though, Mr. Parker said, as the fair saw an increase in attendance with 204,000 coming through the gates.
Mr. Parker noted the success of a new craft class called Baby Blankets for Blessings. He said fair officials believed it may attract a dozen or so competitors but got four times that many. He said the blankets produced are then donated to Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital in Cleveland for those in the intensive care unit.
Mr. Parker said the fair lacked funds to take on capital projects this past year and concentrated on maintenance and repairs.
He said fair officials did raze the Heritage Building at the south end of the fairgrounds and expect to raise a new building in its place by Aug. 1.
Mr. Parker also thanked commissioners for providing $32,243 in Community Development Block Grants that will allow for a new paved pathway between the two midways.
He said performer Chris Higbee will be returning and the fair will be hosting a new circus act. Also new this year will be the KOI Drag Racing. The popular demolition derby will be scheduled for a one-day showing, instead of the usual two.
Also returning will be the truck pulls, rodeo and the ever-popular Geauga Fair Band, which will perform two shows daily.
Mr. Parker said the fair also will be introducing a new ride pricing for advanced sales. He said visitors can buy an all-week pass for the rides for $60, a $20 savings.
Fair officials are also planning for the fair’s bicentennial in 2022 which will include one added day to the fair on Wednesday.
Commissioner Timothy Lennon asked if the fair is considering having a fireworks show.
Mr. Harris said fireworks had been tried in the past, but animals didn’t enjoy it as much as the crowds.
Mr. Parker said fair officials are also looking into constructing a multi-purpose building that could be used year-round. Such a building could be leased to the public and provide revenues for the fair.
Mr. Harris said it could be part of a permanent museum to display artifacts from past fairs. He said the fair recently took possession of postcards of the fair from 1908 and 1910.
Mr. Harris said the cost of such a building will be the biggest obstacle. He said fairs in Holmes and Wood counties have such buildings, but one of them, a 125-foot-by-300-foot building cost $2.2 million.
Commissioner Ralph Spidalieri said such a building would be welcomed in the county. “There’s a huge need for it,” he said, adding that it could provide significant revenues for the fair. He said the county lacks a building that can host business expos and trade shows. “I would definitely support it because I think it would be a huge plus for the county,” Mr. Spidalieri said.
Mr. Harris said fair officials are considering constructing it where Merchant Hall 2 is located in the center of the fairgrounds. He said that building has outlived its use and it has become a struggle to fill it each year. He said that location would allow for ample parking for events.
Mr. Harris said as of now, fair officials are just beginning to investigate that possible building.
Mr. Harris said while such a building would be a boost locally, one restrictive factor is lodging for those who come to the area.
Mr. Lennon said the situation is like the chicken and the egg, asking which comes first, a building for events or lodging for those coming to those events.
Mr. Parker said the fair is also moving toward a paperless operation with new software to register entries.
Mr. Spidalieri said the commissioners were approached by Berkshire School officials, who may be seeking to install a water line across the fairgrounds to the new school being built to the north. He said commissioners have agreed to allow fair officials to decide how the issue should be handled. “We don’t want to be in a situation where we’re stepping on the fair boards’ toes,” he said.
He said he believes the fair board knows best what should be done on the fairgrounds.
Mr. Lennon said there have been no formal presentations by school officials for the waterline, only a “lot of ideas.”
Mr. Harris said if such a waterline is run through the fairgrounds it would provide an opportunity to have bathrooms and showers for those staying in the campgrounds. He said the fair hosts 317 to 320 campers each year.