Canfield Fair board shines amid our opening-day mistake

By Todd Franko

A great time to measure folks is not when things are going swell for them.

I like seeing how folks act in the face of pressure or adversity.

The Vindicator was the reason the bosses of the Canfield Fair faced unnecessary pressure and adversity on the opening day of this year’s fair.

And they showed leadership and flexibility that was stunning and admirable.

We print volumes of information about the fair.

It’s the most coverage we give to any annual event that hits the Valley. And I’d suggest that we offer the most fair coverage of any media in the Valley.

Volumes of information under tight deadlines make us vulnerable to errors.

We have to be on our toes, and most times we are.

When we’re not, it can be embarrassing or costly.

In this case, it was both.

In our Tuesday edition, we announced that on Wednesday, senior citizens would be admitted free to the fair.

That was wrong.

Our best understanding as to how it happened was simply that our staffer had a misstep while typing in the many details of fair admission prices and times. And the editor safety net failed despite ample recognition afterward that “free seniors” would be unprecedented at the fair.

This is a reality of our business, and it’s something folks underestimate until they’re in our seats or, in this such case, are affected by a mistake.

But that’s little consolation to the senior citizens who showed up at the fair Wednesday believing they had free admission.

Amid confusing and testy circumstances at the gates as well as at The Vindicator’s fair tent, the fair board of directors stepped in and saved the day for many people.

Seniors were admitted free Wednesday, the board decided.

It was not an easy call to make on the fly.

The fair is the key revenue event that sustains the magnificent facility and makes it available for many other uses year-round. Several thousand senior citizens at $7 each is a significant sum.

But facing a daylong distraction of angry customers and frustrated gate workers, the fair board made a bold choice for its operations and a gracious offering to senior citizens by making it a free day.

We promised to be a bit wiser next year. This year was an offering the fair can’t afford every year.

Completely opposite of that gut-wrenching fair episode was a gut-filling event I enjoyed Friday at the fair.

I was able to be a judge for a cooking contest. Spinach was the must-ingredient for the contest, and after 60-plus dishes, Popeye had nothing on me.

It might sound like a fun gig, and I did have fun, to be sure. (Check out a video of me on my blog or at

But don’t think for a second that the men and women who submitted the spinach-based dishes expected anything less than careful judging that comes from thorough tasting. They told me so with steely stares from a row of park benches 8 feet away.

(One couple remarked to a friend of mine that we judges were not tasting thoroughly enough.)

A flimsy steel chain that wouldn’t restrain the Taco Bell Chihuahua is all that protected the three judges from the contestants.

Thus, I was thorough. And I expanded my belt.

Watching the spinach dishes appear before us made me think of the scene in “Forrest Gump” when Bubba recites all the ways to cook shrimp. I was Bubba, and the shrimp was spinach.

Spinach soup, spinach pasta, spinach lasagna, spinach dip, spinach calzones, spinach quiche, spinach cookies, spinach cake, spinach salad, spinach tart, spinach English muffin ... and so on.

After two hours of this, I would have enjoyed a spinach beer.

The champ was Fran Hurayt with a spinach pastry offering that melted on contact.

Susan Christian took second with a cold spinach salad with a ginger-tinged dressing that danced on the taste buds.

And mayonnaise exploded from Laura Courtwright’s spinach English muffin — taking third place.

In juniors, first through fourth went to, in order: Kacey Whistler, Alaina Courtwright, Remi Mikan and Kaylee Whistler.

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