LISBON - The Columbiana County Fair kicked off Monday with the announcement that this year's fair is different from the hundreds held before.
Standing on the Murray Family Stage under partly sunny skies and 80-degree temperatures, Fair Board President Don Humphrey began the annual opening ceremony with a dramatic welcome.
"We have a lot of surprises in store for you this year, and even tonight," he said.
Unity Township Trustee Tim Weigle parachutes in as part of the Columbiana County Fair's opening ceremony Monday. (Salem News photo by Wayne Marris)
He said that after several requests, the fair is introducing a variety of free grandstand events, including tonight's motorcycle dirt drag racing at the grandstand. Other free events are a concert with Zach Paxson and Savannah Jack on Wednesday evening, motocross on Thursday, and the combine demolition derby on Sunday.
Another difference is the new Rabbit, Turkey, Chicken barn, or RTC. The barn, located up from where the original barn once stood, is replacing the small red barn that has housed rabbit and poultry projects for years.
"Some improvements are not quite as visible," Humphrey said, speaking of a new 30-inch drain line and catch basins that were installed throughout the barns. The new line has fixed the drainage problems the fair has dealt with over the years, and he said the most recent downpour would have been a major detriment to the fairgrounds had it not been installed.
A major project the fair board is looking at down the road is a new grandstand, he added.
He said the project is the "biggest remaining job" at the fairgrounds and charged the fair board with developing a plan over the coming year, including funding sources. He anticipates its construction the following year, or 2014.
"It's time. You need it and deserve it," he told those seated in the existing wooden grandstand.
He also said commemorative bricks are being sold for the area around the 75-foot United States flag in the Patriotic Plaza. The bricks are $50 a piece and money will go toward the purchase of a new flag in the future, as needed.
"We are very proud of the efforts that flag represents," he said.
A moment of silence was then held for those in the military who have "given the ultimate sacrifice." The playing of the National Anthem followed, and immediately after Unity Township Trustee Tim Weigle flew in-literally-for the presentation of colors.
Weigle parachuted out of an airplane over the grandstands, landing dramatically on the track in front of the Murray Family Stage, the "Old Glory" trailing behind.
Once the loud shouts and applause from the stands died down, Humphrey joked that Weigle had "snuck in" without paying for a ticket and told County Sheriff Ray Stone to "cuff him," generating a laugh from Weigle and the crowd.
Before a parade featuring royalty in various categories from around the area, Humphrey introduced fair board members and Friends of the Fair, which included Sheriff Ray Stone, state Sen. Joe Schiavoni, Lisbon Mayor Dan Bing, Sarah Poulton, field representative for Congressman Bill Johnson (R-Marietta), Karen Candisky, field representative for U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, county Treasurer Nick Barborak, state Rep. Craig Newbold (R-Columbiana), county Commissioners John Payne, Jim Hoppel and Mike Halleck, county Treasurer Nancy Milliken, Municipal Court Judges Mark Frost and Carol Ann Robb, and Court of Common Pleas Judge Scott Washam.
Signed proclamations for the fair were presented on behalf of Gov. John Kasich and Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor, and state Treasurer Josh Mandel.
"Let's have a great fair," Halleck said.