County Fair enjoys record attendance

LISBON – A week of great weather translated into a record week of attendance for the 168th Columbiana County Fair.

“I think it is,” said fair board treasurer Shelley Bergman, quickly adding, “I know it’s going to be a record.”

Bergman said attendance through Saturday totaled 35,350, only 50 less than last year’s record 35,400, and Sunday is historically one of the highest attended days of the week-long event because of the popular demolition derby, which always draws a standing room-only crowd.

Fair officials and members agreed much of their record-setting success had to do with good fortune: A week of partly sunny days that rarely saw temperatures exceed 80 degrees, and if so, not for very long, followed by cool evenings punctuated by a few light overnight showers.

“You can wait a lifetime for a week like this for fair weather. We may never see anything like this again,” said former fair board president Don Humphrey Jr. “This weather was perfect. Ideal fair weather. Low temperatures. It sprinkled a few nights, as if watering down the fairgrounds for another day.”

Fair board president Sharen Cope agreed. “We didn’t have that terribly hot weather like we did last year … The weather has helped us a great deal this year,” she said.

Cope said they also continued to tweak their entertainment offerings to appeal to the broadest crowd possible. “We had a lot of free events this year. We had several free concerts. Zach Paxson, a local boy, we were very happy to present him and Jeremy Miller,” she said.

The board also brought back the strong man competition, but only two local high school football teams chose to participate. “We were hoping for a few more schools, so we got to get the word out about the events,” she said.

Of course, Saturday’s truck and tractor pulls remained as popular as Sunday’s demolition derby.

“We had ’em packed in like sardines (Saturday night),” Cope said. “They were parked everywhere, and we had a full grandstand and a full bleachers … I guess gasoline and rubber is what they’re looking for, and we’re glad to present that,.

Traditional fair events involving livestock and other aspects of farming continue to draw large numbers of exhibitors and other participants. Cope said the arts and crafts building drew 1,400 entries – the largest in her six years on the board.

Cope said they continue to work hard to improve the fair infrastructure, saying this year they renovated the commercial building and added a new sales office at Gate D using a donated trailer from a shale gas company and renovated by Owen Unkefer.