CANFIELD, Ohio – More than 20 years ago, cows from Gordon Withers’ Honey Creek Farm near Petersburg, Ohio, were stalled tail to tail in an entire quarter of the show coliseum during the Canfield Fair.
Then, in the early’ 80s, all open show cattle and exhibitors were shifted to the south end of the fairgrounds.
Most cows were then stalled in the eight narrow shelters known as the dairy complex. Overflow animals went into tents erected to the south of the barns.
Another tent was set just before the fair started for use as a show ring.
New this year. But this year, when the entire Withers family celebrated the opening of the 156th fair as the longest running cattle exhibitors, they again tied their cows in a quadrant of the show coliseum.
The family is among the first to use the newly constructed cattle arena on the fairgrounds.
The fair runs through Sept. 2.
The 104-by-100 metal-sided barn houses several herds representing a variety of dairy breeds.
From the ground up. Construction of the new facility was completed in mid-July, according to fair board member and dairy superintendent Howard Moff.
But the arena’s beginnings date back decades.
All those years ago, now-retired fair board member Bob Wiley had plans drawn up and dreams in his head for the new facility.
“Unfortunately, things never materialized for that building. It was just too expensive,” Moff said.
“Bob has made the comment that he didn’t think he would live long enough to see this actually happen,” he said. “It’s been a long time coming.”
With talk brewing for years about what might happen, fair board members finalized plans last winter and moved ground in May.
Just days before the fair started, workers were perfecting the lighting and checking all plumbing in the barn and the new wash rack.
The rack, located at the east end of the arena, is 10 feet longer than the one it displaced.
“Hopefully that will help out when everybody needs to get [their animals] washed,” Moff said.
For your comfort. Other improvements have also been made to increase the comfort of the cows, the exhibitors and fairgoers.
“We’ll be able to get six sections of bleachers in here, which is two more than we used to have in the old tent,” Moff said.
Fair events, such as the dress-a-cow contest and wee ones showmanship, have drawn large crowds that packed the tent. The new setup will allow seats for more spectators and easier access to the show ring for exhibitors.
Exhaust fans were also built into both ends of the building, and each corner has a sliding door that will help with ventilation.
Extras. As the construction phase closed, receipts totaled tens of thousands less than the fair board’s original budget, Moff said.
A portion of the excess funds were used to install a sound system among all buildings in the south cattle complex.
“It used to be that you couldn’t hear anything. Now, two speakers are in every barn,” Moff said.
In addition, the sound system will allow announcers to broadcast to the entire complex or limit sound to either the barns or show ring areas only.
Year-round use. The building also has 30 high-powered halogen lights and a cement floor.
Because the structure houses up to 50 animals, the use of one tent has been eliminated during fair time.
In addition, the fair board has anticipated use of the facility for other livestock shows throughout the year.
“If we were just showing cattle in here, we wouldn’t need the cement. But that opens this up to other opportunities” for year-round use, including craft and antique shows and storage, Moff said.
As with first-time use of anything, there will be problems and challenges.
“It’ll never be big enough” for all the possibilities it offers, he said, but exhibitors will more than likely be enthusiastic that they’ve gotten their long-awaited arena.
More cattle. One matter of size and possibility is already starting to show: this year, the complex will house 140 4-H project cattle to total 600 dairy cattle and 240 beef cattle.
Included in that number are a handful of first-time exhibitors.
“[A lot of exhibitors] have been saying if we get a decent place to show, they’ll be there.
“Well, it’s finally here.”
(You can contact Andrea Myers at 1-800-837-3419, ext. 22, or by e-mail at email@example.com.)
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