By ROBERT CONNELLY | firstname.lastname@example.org
A 100-year old hunt club is working through the paperwork to rebuild after a fire destroyed one of its clubhouses last month.
Because of the fire, the Mahoning County Coon Hunters Protective Association, based at 9680 Akron-Canfield Road, had to cancel its annual Fall Festival. The non-profit group’s biggest fundraiser of the year was going to celebrate its 100-year anniversary.
“It just got to the point where it would be too confusing, and maybe by then we might have some construction going on,” club president John Jakubec said of canceling the festival.
The members voted to cancel it at their July 1 meeting. Group members are trying to let festival attendees and vendors know the event is off for this year.
“I think we’ll be able to get the word out to everyone that we’re not going to have it, but I think it’s going to be bigger and better in 2015,” club trustee Eli Alexander said of the festival.
Todd Schuller, acting secretary of the club, explained that the festival is the weekend after Labor Day every year and there is a row of more than 300 vendors along with a row for campers, with country music every night and thousands attending the event. He said the vendors would “sell everything from handmade crafts the things specifically for dogs ... you name it, it’s there for sale.”
Schuller said there were activities throughout the three-day festival, from kids being able to fish on the lake at the club’s facility to dog races.
Jakubec said most vendors elected to reserve their spot for the 2015 Fall Festival instead of wanting their money back for the reservation already made for this year’s canceled event.
Alexander said the community support has been “unbelievable” since the main clubhouse was destroyed.
“They’ve been out here many times, and between the communities of Columbiana, Ellsworth, Canfield they loved the place ... We contributed to the communities. We donated money to the fire department and churches and certain charities,” Alexander said. “They’re very saddened we’re not having the event this year.”
The Vindicator talked with the two club members earlier this week at the spot of the former clubhouse. All that remains is a base of gravel from the building’s demolition in mid-June.
One of the few things left standing after the fire June 3 was a tall, brick fireplace in the center of the building. The fireplace was deemed unsafe and was taken down, but the club kept a few bricks to integrate into the new building and possibly put around a nearby flagpole.
Ellsworth Fire Department crews responded to the clubhouse at 3:44 a.m. June 3 and had the fire under control by about 4:30 a.m. that day. Fire departments from Damascus, North Jackson, Canfield, Berlin Center and Greenford assisted with the blaze because there aren’t hydrants in Ellsworth.
There were no injuries and there were no occupants of the building during the fire.
Jakubec said the club’s insurance company determined it was an electrical issue with a 14-year old commercial refrigerator that sparked the blaze, erasing years of history of the club. He explained members had brought in photos of the group’s 100 years to put together for collages to celebrate the 100-year anniversary of the group. None of that survived the fire.
Now the group is working with DPH Architecture, based in Canfield, on prints for the new building, which may have some changes to the interior.
“We’re ready to go as soon as they issue our permits. It’s just we have to go through the bureaucracy of prints and permits and things of that nature. ... We’ll get it done,” Alexander said.