By Elise Franco
Every Canfield Fair patron’s worst nightmare as they exit the fairgrounds is forgetting where exactly they parked their car.
That’s where Ed Schaefer comes in.
Schaefer and his family have been running shuttle services on the grounds and outside the gates since 1992. The shuttles, which are tractors with long wagons hitched to the back, mainly take patrons to and from the main fair gates, but they also run shuttles for senior citizens twice per fair inside the grounds.
“The tractor drivers go to the parking lot areas and take people to gates D and F, that way they know where they came into the fair,” he said. “We spend hours toting people around and helping them find their cars in the middle of the night.”
Schaefer said the operation is a well-oiled machine made up of him, his wife, son, daughter, son-in-law and five grandchildren, as well as about 80 other employees.
“I’ve been involved in the fair all my life, and it’s very much a part of all of us,” he said. “Some of these drivers have been here longer than I have, and they’ve really accepted me.”
Janet Yeagley-Donaldson, Schaefer’s 38-year-old daughter, said she’s been involved in some aspect of the shuttle operation since she was a young girl.
“I think it’s a blast because it’s like a weeklong family reunion,” she said. “It gets hectic on those busy days, but you always do it.”
Schaefer’s wife, DeErla, said she enjoyed watching her children, and now grandchildren, grow up at the fair. She often recalls funny stories about the younger family members, such as the time her grandson Evan Schaefer called for “Grandpa” over the handheld radio instead of calling, “Big Ed,” Ed Schaefer’s nickname.
“We all laughed and said, ‘Evan, you can’t call “Grandpa” over the radio,’” DeErla Schaefer said. “Even though we all knew who he meant.”
Lee Kohler, fair board member, said Schaefer is the perfect person to run the shuttle and has done a great job over the past 20 years.
“He knows the equipment, and I feel he’s a tremendous asset,” Kohler said. “I hate to see the day come when Ed and [DeErla] can’t run the shuttle system anymore.”
But Kohler and the rest of the fair board needn’t worry about Schaefer leaving any time soon.
Schaefer said he’ll continue running the shuttle services for as long as he can, and he credits his longevity to his family.
“My family is so good at helping me,” he said. “I’ll be out here till the day I die or till I can’t do it anymore.”