By MONICA BOND
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
BAZETTA -- Bright sun, a dry, dusty track and 90-degree temperatures greeted harness racing Monday, the first day of the Trumbull County Fair.
Twelve races were scheduled for Monday, and 12 for today, said Richard Roscoe, fair board president. Racing begins at 12:30 p.m.
Monday's ninth race was the maiden race for Connie Corleone, a 2-year-old filly from Northfield Park Racetrack. She was foaled in Sugarcreek, where her sire Corleone stands, and named after the daughter of Don Corleone from "The Godfather."
Alan Bedford of London, Ontario, and Don McKirgan, based at Northfield Park Racetrack in Northfield, are partners. Bedford and McKirgan's wife Sandra co-own Connie Corleone; McKirgan trains and drives the filly.
Overcoming the odds
The filly was warming up for her maiden race in Marion last week, Bedford said, when "the heavens opened" and rain canceled her race.
Bedford said they race 3-year-olds at Northfield Park, but prefer to take 2-year-olds elsewhere. The 2-year-olds would have to race against older horses at Northfield Park, too great a challenge for young beginners. Too many defeats break a young horse's spirit, Bedford explained.
"I'm having fun -- it's a hobby for an old guy," Bedford said.
McKirgan, standing by the track in white and red silks, said he has been in the harness racing world for 50 years.
"I started when I was 12, and was driving at 16," he said.
A year and a half ago, Bedford said, McKirgan was in the hospital paralyzed from a nerve disorder.
"A year ago Christmas, I walked into the hospital and he couldn't move anything but his eyeballs," he said.
But McKirgan recovered, and he and Bedford were waiting to take their filly out for her maiden run.
"I'm kind of anxious for her, to tell the truth," Bedford said.
"She's a nice filly, but she had a little trouble warming up," McKirgan said.
Connie Corleone placed fourth in the 1-mile, 2-year-old filly trot; her purse was $413.45. There were nine horses in the field.
The grandstand wasn't the only active place at the fairgrounds. Some vendors were open for business and Bates Brothers of Wintersville was setting up rides. Most of the animals were expected to arrive Monday night; opening ceremonies are at 6:30 this evening.
A major event
Roscoe said they have about 200 food vendors at the fair.
"About one-quarter get their contracts signed at the end of the previous year's fair," he said.
Trumbull County Antique Tractor Club has about 150 units set up near the grandstand, Roscoe said. The club brings refurbished tractors and other equipment.
Roscoe said he expects 90,000 to 100,000 people to visit the fair; about 30,000 are concessions workers, 4-H members and their parents, and others who come in for free.
The fair board makes about $100,000 profit each year, Roscoe said, and uses the money to continue improvements.
Roscoe said he's been coming to Trumbull County Fair since he was a child. He's been on the fair board for 28 years.
"It's worth its weight in gold to see the kids off the street," Roscoe said. "It's a beautiful family fair."