COLUMBIANA The city will be bustling with activity today as the 126th annual Columbiana Street Fair gets under way with a parade through town at 6:30 p.m.
The three-day fair sponsored by the American Legion Benjamin Firestone Post 290 draws thousands of people to the city each year.
Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Bureau member Larry Deidrick said the parade is the biggest of all parades held in the city during the year. It is typically an hour long and begins in Firestone Park. The parade will come into town by way of East Park Avenue, through the circle and back to the park.
The fair begins at 5:30 p.m. today and Legion members, city employees and other participants started setting up on Wednesday evening.
Deidrick said the "Big Tent" where businesses and non-profit organizations gather to offer items over the three days is located near the Post Office.
"It's a tent as wide as the street. It's huge," he said.
Dave Reash, Legion member and Street Fair Manager said the tent is 220-foot long and 40-foot wide.
Deidrick said the chamber and tourism bureau will have a space in the tent to showcase the Christmas Light Show planned for December in Firestone Park.
The tourism bureau will also be displaying the photography contest in the tent this year and Deidrick said there are more than 100 entries.
Reash said food, including hot sausages and hoagies will be available from approximately 40 vendors who have traveled from the surrounding area, Canfield, and even out of state for the fair.
Chicken dinners will also be available from two local churches. Deidrick said the dinners are a "tradition that has gone on for decades."
The Legion will also be making its popular hamburger. Reash said the burgers are grilled with chopped onions and served with grilled onions.
"The street fair is famous for the Legion burger," Deidrick said. "It has been served for decades. They sell thousands and thousands of these burgers."
"It's a very good sandwich," Reash said.
According to Reash, the street fair began when merchants in town decided to host a fall event to draw people in for the weekend.
"They used to have softball games, bicycle races and competitions for judging produce and different things, and then it just turned into a fair," he said.
The Legion began sponsoring the event about 90 years ago, and the only time the fair wasn't held was one year during World War II, he added.
Now, adults and kids can enjoy rides provided by J&J Amusements and live musical entertainment by Roy Orbison and Elvis Presley impersonators tonight at 8, Kelly and Al's Rock N Roll Heaven Friday from 8 to 11 p.m., and The New Silver Eagle Band from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. Saturday and local musician John Branch and Friends from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday.
Reash said local merchants have donated items to be raffled off during the event.
Tickets are $1 a piece or six for $5. Drawings are held each evening and winners must be present to claim the prizes.
Tonight's cash prize drawing is $250 cash. On Friday the cash prize is $500 and Saturday is $5,000.
Reash said winners for the cash drawings do not have to be present.
Proceeds from the fair go toward the Legion's programs that are geared toward kids and veterans, he said.
Deidrick said the million-dollar South Main Street improvement project underway is on hold during the event.
"They (the contractor hired by the city) pretty much finished up the east side of Main Street ... and finished up to Union Street on the west side," he said.
He added the project is on schedule and work will begin again once the fair is over.
In February, Howells and Baird engineer Jon Vollnogle said the project would possibly be done by the street fair, but that wasn't guaranteed.
At that time he recommended council include a clause in the contract that work would be halted during the fair.
The fair opens today and Friday at 5:30 p.m. and closes at 11 p.m. On Saturday, it opens at noon and closes at 11 p.m.