By KALEA HALL
Each year Nancy and Bob Stark of Leetonia open up their “Kickin’ Chicken” concession stand at the Canfield Fair, they learn something new.
“Get here early” to set up, is Bob’s advice to vendors.
The Starks are just one set of more than 700 vendors who will be selling multiple items from food to clothing to the thousands of fair attendees who will be entering the gates starting at 8 a.m. today for the 167th fair.
“This is the busiest time for the concessionaires and vendors,” said George Roman III, Canfield Fair Board member.
Many of the vendors leave one fair and come to another, Roman said.
With thousands of entries in competitions for arts and crafts, baked goods, livestock, growing and more, the setup for the fair is an exciting and tiring time for everyone involved.
“When you try to put that many people together in a short amount of time, it can get tense,” Roman said.
Despite the rush to set up, the anticipation and excitement for the fair early this week was obvious.
“We love the Canfield Fair,” Bob said.
“You meet so many new people, and there is so much to do,” Nancy added.
Nancy and Bob now know what sells the best at the Canfield Fair: their chicken wraps. This is only their third year at the fair and fourth year in the concessionaire business. Their chicken wraps and chicken tenders, with homemade dipping sauces, are sold on Canfield Drive.
Roman said the vendors mostly remain in the same spot every year, so fair attendees can easily find their favorites.
“When you get a good product and produce a good product, people remember that,” Roman said.
What’s the newest product to hit the fair this year? A chocolate gyro being sold at Vlahos Original Chocolate Gyro Stand at Schaffer Drive. “You can have your dessert right at the same time,” Roman said.
The gourds, pumpkins and the massive squash in the Pumpkin Building also have to get prepared before the fair. Diane Less is not only the founder of Angels for Animals in Canfield and Horse Spotted Studio, she also is a pumpkin, gourd and sign painter at the fair — and has been for the last 40 years. Less has been in the sign-painting business since she was 12, and now sign painting is her full-time job.
She would paint farm signs for her father’s farm, the Paul Less Farm, and for her father’s friends. The late Homer Schaffer, who ran the Pumpkin and Grange buildings at the fairgrounds, thought of the idea to paint the weights on the pumpkins and squash and selected Less to do the job. Over the years, the squash have continued to grow, and this year, the largest one weighs 903 pounds.
Less is happy to say she’s behind several of the signs at the fair and those red and silver numbers on the 100-150 large squash, pumpkins and gourds.
“I love it,” Less said. “To me [the fair] is like all of the community in one space.”
A major part of determining how the fair will go is the weather.
“It’s weather-geared,” Roman said.
According to the National Weather Service, there is an 80 percent chance of thunderstorms with a high of 85 degrees today. Both Thursday and Friday will be mostly sunny with a high of 87 degrees Thursday and a high of 83 on Friday. Saturday will be partly sunny with a high of 87. There also is a chance of storms Sunday, but it will be partly sunny with a high of 86 degrees.