CANFIELD Couples recall falling in love at fair

For many couples, the Canfield Fair is a romantic place.
CANFIELD -- Fifty years of fair togetherness and it's still not enough.
Jerry and Donna Ricketts started celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary a little early. Their daughter announced the special occasion during an official fair board luncheon, where Jerry was honored for more than 34 years of working at the Canfield Fair.
The couple met at the fair 52 years ago when Jerry was working as a security guard at the 4-H building and Donna counted heads as cars came through the gates. The girlfriend Donna rode to the fair with each day was in 4-H and they would meet in the 4-H building every evening to go home.
While she waited, Donna visited with Jerry. They met on the first day of the 1949 fair and had their first official date -- sort of -- less than a week later.
Fair ended, love began: "The last night of the fair, he took me home," Donna said with a smile. "We were married two years later -- Sept. 8, 1951. That was the week after the fair."
Jerry has worked in various capacities at the fair every year since 1946, and since they met, the couple has never missed the fair. "We've hardly missed a day," Donna said. "At the most, we've missed five days in 50 years."
He's done everything from guarding exhibits to selling popcorn. She's worked as a hostess in the arts and crafts building.
Even after more than 50 years, the aroma of french fries and cacophony of game attendants tempting prospects to win prizes for their sweeties puts a sparkle in the golden-anniversary couple's eyes.
Every day at the fair, couples stroll through the midways hand-in-hand. Teen-agers steal kisses as they wait in line at concession stands. Young married couples walk arm-in-arm behind strollers or pulling wagons where toddlers nap or snack on cotton candy. Fiftyish folks meander through the crowd steering their better halves through the chaos with gentle nudges; others huddle together on benches under shade trees.
This is love at the fair. Isn't it romantic?
"Absolutely," said Debbi Frost of North Jackson. She and her husband, Tom, spend the whole week. He takes his vacation this time every year so the couple can spend day after day strolling the midways. They park their camper on the fairgrounds and spend every night too.
"We have a 61/2-year-old daughter and she's always with us," Frost continued. "She's in school now so this is our time to be alone together." Frost is a teacher but classes at the school where she teaches don't start until after Labor Day.
Before their daughter was born, the couple operated a concession stand at the fair selling ice cream and corn dogs. Now, Frost said, "we're just enjoying it."
Traditional visit: Amy and Mike Rolland of Austintown both took a day off work to visit the fair on Friday.
"I brought her to the fair 11 years ago when we first started dating and I've brought her every year since," Mike said. The couple visit the fair on Saturday with relatives but like to have one day alone.
What is most romantic about the fair, Amy said, "is the time we get to spend together. We come early in the morning and watch them feed the animals. Then we have breakfast." The couple usually spends the entire day, going home in the early evening.
Visiting the fair is a nostalgic affair for Chuck and Gloria Bandy of North Georgetown. Their children entered cattle, horses and rabbits in a variety of competitions. Now, their grandchildren are starting to enter.
The most romantic spot on the fairgrounds, Chuck said, is the Western Reserve Village. But, watching the horses is also special. The couple met on a trail ride.

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