The Elijah J. Williams law office was the first historical building in the Canfield Fair's Western Reserve Village.
By MARALINE KUBIK
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
CANFIELD -- When Bob Rose was a child, the Canfield Fairgrounds served as his playground. He lived just a block away.
Although it was part of his everyday life then, he never imagined that 70 years later the fair would still be an integral part of his daily routine.
By 14, Rose, who is now 76, worked at the main gate selling tickets.
While other kids his age entered contests and exhibited projects, Rose stayed behind the scene, helping to ensure that things ran smoothly.
He worked the 100th anniversary fair in 1946, the only time the fair ran 10 days.
Then, in 1954, after being discharged from the service, the 28-year-old veteran decided to run for a seat on the fair board.
Another newcomer, Homer Schaeffer, entered the race, too.
Rather than pit candidates vying for a seat against each other, Rose said, "The board increased the number of seats by two and took us both on."
The first area Rose oversaw was security.
"Back then, we had half a dozen police on days and four on nights," he recalled. "Now we have probably 100 police [on duty at once]."
Later, Rose switched to overseeing speed -- the fair's horse-racing program.
"I had speed for 10 years then I went to grandstand entertainment and special attractions," he said.
Today, grandstand entertainment, special attractions and the Western Reserve Village are still Rose's favorite departments. He started the Western Reserve Village in 1964 when he became board president.
Rose, retired president of Farmers National Bank, served as president of the Canfield Fair Board in 1964 and 1965 and has been treasurer since 1969. He's also served as treasurer of the Ohio Fair Managers Association for 25 years.
The Elijah J. Williams law office was the first historical building to become available to the Canfield Fair, Rose said, and was the first building moved to what has evolved into a 10-building pioneer village.
Most of the buildings, including the store, library, school, railroad station and log cabin have come from throughout the tri-county area. The church was completed last year.
"I spend a lot of time down there," Rose said of the village. "It requires a lot of upkeep that people don't realize, those old buildings."
Rose also spends a lot of time selecting and hiring entertainers.
"We have $30,000 to $35,000 of free entertainment each year," he said. These entertainers perform on open stages throughout the fairgrounds. In addition to musical acts, Rose said, "We've had alligators, elephants, tigers -- mostly animal acts and things that are entertaining to the kids."
Those acts change every year or two so fairgoers always have something new to see, he added.
This year, "The Great Bear Show," sponsored by The Vindicator and featuring three 400-pound North American black bears, is new.
Big-name entertainers who come to the grandstand help draw to the fair people who otherwise might not come.
Grandstand shows are not included in the fair's admission price.
Country music performers always sell well, he said.
Rock bands draw a different crowd. Last year, Rose said, fairgoers came all the way from Japan to see the 1970/80s rock band Styx. This year, people from Ireland have ordered tickets to see Journey, another rock band from the '70s.
Most fairgoers come from throughout northeast Ohio and western Pennsylvania, but there are always many visitors from farther away and a few who come great distances, he noted.
Star performers cost more than $100,000 to bring in, which is always a risk for an outdoor venue. If bad weather prevents a show from taking place, tickets must be refunded, Rose said, and the performer still gets paid.
Folding chairs set up on the track increase seating capacity in the grandstand to 9,000, Rose added.
The first big-name performers to come to the fair were The Lennon Sisters. William H. Kilcawley, a prominent Youngstown industrialist and longtime fair board member provided the financial backing to bring The Lennon Sisters to the fair in the 1950s, Rose said. "Before that, we had a lot of gasoline and rubber shows -- thrill shows, tractor pulls."
The Lennon Sisters proved so popular, big-name entertainers have appeared at the Canfield Fair ever since.
Although he's battling cancer, Rose has no immediate plans to curtail his fair-related activities. His goal is to serve as a fair board member 50 years.
"The fair business has to get into your blood because it really is a labor of love," he reflected. "I come to the fairgrounds every day. I don't have to, but I enjoy it." Rose has been on the fair board 48 years.