By GUY D’ASTOLFO
The Columbiana County Fair board has received two $50,000 gifts from two area families to go for the grandstand replacement project.
The gifts from the Richard F. Wilk Jr. and the Zehentbauer families moved the project closer to its $900,000 goal.
The amount raised so far, including in-kind gifts and pledges, now stands at about $800,000. The board hopes to go beyond the goal in order to replace bathrooms on the grounds.
The Wilk family gift will create a Winner’s Circle, where winners of any competition will be photographed and recognized in a consistent backdrop.
“My family has been blessed in many ways, and we are thrilled to be in a position to support the Columbiana County Fair,” said local businessman Dick Wilk, about his family’s gift. A lifelong resident of Columbiana County, Wilk founded Specialty Ceramics Inc. and Refractory Specialties Inc. in the early 1990s. Both companies were sold in 2011, but Wilk still manages both.
The gift from the Neil and Richard Zehentbauer families, operators of Hanover Farms, will name the 240- square-foot press box that will sit atop the new grandstand.
Members of the family, like many others in the county, grew up attending and participating at the fair.
“We have worked hard and been fortunate as a family, so we loved the idea of helping the fair achieve its goal of having the grandstand up in time for this year’s fair,” said Richard Zehentbauer.
The aging former grandstand was torn down on Dec. 14. The new grandstand will seat 2,500, which is 1,100 more than the old one.
“The new grandstand will allow us to think outside of the traditional box when it comes to entertainment and other activities, even outside of fair week,” said John Wolf, fair board president.
The board is urging community members to continue to donate to the project, regardless of the size of the gift.
This year’s fair — the 170th — will be July 28-Aug. 3.