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VETERANS MEMORIAL Free wall-climbing causes hard feelings



Published: Tue, September 3, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



There were four rock-climbing walls at this year's fair.

By IAN HILL

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

CANFIELD -- The owners of two rock-climbing walls at this year's Canfield Fair say their business went downhill after the Army gave fairgoers the chance to climb a rock wall for free.

Scott Wiesler, the co-owner of The Rolling Rock, said his business was down at least 50 percent compared with last year, and Rocky Scholfield, who also co-owns a wall, says her business dropped 75 percent. Both Scholfield and Wiesler charge fairgoers $5 to climb their 24-foot-high walls.

The Army allowed fairgoers ages 16 and older to climb a 24-foot-high wall behind the Mahoning Veterans Memorial for free.

"Why should I pay for space [at the fair] and have the fair or whoever give my product away for free?" Scholfield said. "If you [sold] elephant ears, would you want someone selling elephant ears for free?"

Wiesler's wall has been at the fair for the last three years, and Scholfield's wall has been there two years.

Fair board's fault?

Both Scholfield and Wiesler blame the fair board for allowing the Army to offer free climbs. Scholfield and Wiesler also said they felt the fair wasn't big enough to support four climbing walls. A 32-foot wall owned by Tim Brake also was at the fair.

"It's like the Swiss Alps here," Wiesler said.

Fair Manager Bev Fisher stressed that the veterans invited the Army to the fair without telling the board. She added that the board will not allow an organization at the fair to give away a product that also is being sold on the fairgrounds.

AMVETS State Commander J.P. Brown III said that when the Army called and asked to set up their wall behind the memorial, he wasn't aware that other climbing walls would be at the fair.

"We're not here to take away from anybody making a dollar," Brown said.

He said the Army most likely won't be allowed to bring their wall to future fairs.

Used as recruiting tool

Army Sgt. 1st Class John Simmons said the Army allowed only fairgoers 16 or older to climb their wall. He said the Army's wall is a recruiting tool that is used throughout the Midwest.

"I don't think it got as much use as the Army anticipated," Brown said.

Army recruiters talk to fairgoers waiting to climb the wall about the benefits of military service.

Both Scholfield and Wiesler said they don't expect to return to the fair next year. Scholfield noted that she also runs the Power Jump concession, which she doesn't think will return to the fair.

Fisher, however, said she's going to talk to Scholfield and Wiesler, "to rectify that."

hill@vindy.com




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