From behind the scenes to fair ‘hall-of-famer’

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Slansky ODA Award
In addition to receiving an award for “innovation and excellence” from the Ohio Department of Agriculture in January 2019, Joe Slansky will be inducted into the Lake County Fair’s hall of fame July 23. (Submitted photo)

PAINESVILLE TOWNSHIP, Ohio — Joe Slansky, Lake County fair board vice president, can’t remember exactly how long ago he joined the fair board. His best guess is more than 20 years.

His long-term impact on the fair, however, is long-reaching and is being honored this year.

High honors

Slansky will be inducted for the Lake County Fair Hall of Fame July 23, the opening night of the fair.

“It caught me by surprise,” Slansky said. “It’s a big honor. I don’t consider myself a hall-of-famer, and to be nominated is a big deal, amid all the other company in there.”

The fair board voted unanimously to induct him after he was nominated this year, according to Fair Board Advertising and Sponsorships Chairman Robert Dawson.

Also, in January 2019, Slansky was recognized by the Ohio Department of Agriculture at the 94th Ohio Fair Managers Association annual convention with an award for innovation and excellence. He was among eight individuals in the state to receive this honor.

Improving the grounds

Recently, Slansky led an upgrade to the lighting in many of the fairgrounds buildings to LED lights, as a cost-saving measure.

As a member of the grounds committee, Slansky works throughout the year. He said the fair is always making “small improvements” to the lighting, electrical infrastructure and ventilation.

While Slansky may call them “small improvements,” the Lake County Fair said in a press release Slansky’s contributions have made a big difference for the fair.

In addition to upgrading the lighting, Slansky helped salvage the 100-year-old Cone Barn when the fair board refurbished it in 2015. He also designed and built a live chicken hatchery, which became one of the fair’s most popular exhibits, and added more free acts and local musical entertainment to boost attendance as the chair of the entertainment committee.

He has also recruited the Ohio Fair Queen to be the grand marshal for the fair’s opening parade each year and changed the themes and classes for the flower department each year to keep exhibitors interested.

These contributions have made him a “go-to-guy” at the Lake County Fair.

“It’s just something that I do out of enjoyment. I’m not there to seek any notoriety,” Slansky explained, saying he enjoys “being the guy behind the scenes.”

Getting involved

Slansky had family who worked as farmers and coal miners in Pennsylvania, but he was not always involved in agriculture.

“I came from a family of farmers, but never was a farmer,” he said. “I knew how agriculture worked, but really wasn’t involved until I got involved with the fair.”

He got involved with the fair after his wife, Michelle, joined the Lake County Fair Ladies Auxiliary when it first was founded over 20 years ago. She met some fair board members, and Slansky began volunteering soon after.

“One thing led to another,” Slansky said. Before he knew it, he was serving in leadership positions on the board. Now, Slansky has served as a vice president for 10 years. Slansky serves as the chair for the entertainment, parade and flower committees. He also serves on the grounds committee, a number of other committees and has worked with the junior fair board intermittently.

Youth opportunities

Slansky’s children have also been involved.

“It’s been a good influence for my kids,” he said, noting fair board work is “about getting young people involved.”

All three of Slansky’s children have been involved in 4-H. His oldest son, James, 25, is now a member of the fair board. His daughter, Jessica, 16, is still in 4-H. She has shown chickens, pigs and horses and is currently running for fair queen.

Slansky enjoys his work with the fair.

“I appreciate all the years and people I got to work with,” Slansky said. “It’s been a great group.”

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Reporter Sarah Donaldson is a former 4-Her and a Mount Union graduate from Columbiana County, Ohio. She enjoys playing and writing music, cooking, and storytelling in many forms. She can be reached at 800-837-3419 or sarah@farmanddairy.com.

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