Scenes from the opening day of Canfield Fair

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boy haircut to calf
Wyatt Kiko trims a calf in preparation for a show at the Canfield Fair. (Rachel Wagoner photo)

CANFIELD, Ohio —  Reagan Weitzel was 12 days old the first time she was in the dairy barn.

Now, at 15 months old, she is completely comfortable around the cows as she toddles around the platform overlooking the black-and-white cows her mom will show later in the week.

“She’s in the barn every day,” her mom, Katie Weitzel, said. “She loves the cows.”

Weitzel said they’ve been coming to the Canfield Fair for about 20 years, since she and her sister, Andrea, were in high school.

Her parents, Bev and John Struna, run Maplewood Farm. They live in Ashtabula County and show at that fair, but also haul cows down to Canfield.

“We come down here for the competition,” she said. “If you do well at Canfield, it means you’re doing well.”

It’s also tradition. Everyone they grew up showing with still comes to the fair, and they have kids now, too.

This year, though, Katie Weitzel has no expectations about how they’ll do in the show.

“I didn’t even know we were coming until two weeks ago,” she said. “Then my sister said ‘we’ve got to go. We’ve gone for how long.’”

They pulled the best calves and heifers from their herd to bring to the fair. The family milks 50 cows at their farm, Katie Weitzel said.

Coming to the fair is their vacation. The family takes shifts coming to the fair throughout the week to care for animals and taking care of the herd back home. Wednesday was Katie and Reagan’s day at the fair.

“This is what we do to get away,” Katie Weitzel said.

• • •

Doug Weingart came back to the fair this year after his son, Nathan, showed an interest in his hobby.

So, he’s here to show Nathan the ropes of running the 22.5-horsepower Bessemer oil field engine.

The engine was built in the early 20th century and used in oil fields to drill and pump wells. Weingart bought it after seeing an ad for the engine in Farm and Dairy about 20 years ago.

It needed work, though.

“Anything you see bolted on wasn’t there,” he said.

The big green engine runs on liquid propane now, although it originally would have run on natural gas, which was a byproduct of drilling oil. Running it for six hours a day, Weingart said the engine can go through 100 pounds of liquid propane.

There aren’t many of these engines left. Many were sent to the scrap drive during World War II.

“To listen to it run is kind of mesmerizing,” Weingart said.

Back in the day when there would be several engines on an oil field, each engine would have a “barker,” he said. The barker was a piece of metal sat atop the exhaust pipe, with different notches cut out.

“Each engine had its own distinct sound,” he said. “So you’d know if one was missing by the sound.”

The durability of antique machinery is what interests Weingart. The engine was built in the 1920s and is still running today. Will cars built now be running in 100 years, he pondered.

“I just marvel at the guys that built them and how they last,” Weingart said.

Bob Blott stood watching the swings go around in a wide circle, dozens of feet in the air. His 11-year-old daughter Chloe was on the ride. His 8-year-old daughter, Jocilynn, was on the Ferris wheel.

They live nearby and come to the fair each year for the rides and the food, he said.

“My oldest likes the nachos. My youngest likes the hot dogs and fries,” he said.

It’s stuff they eat at home, he said, but apparently there’s something different about it when getting it at the fair.

His favorite fair food is the funnel cake, loaded up with all the toppings.

• • •

It’s been six years since Louis Saulsberry was at the Canfield Fair. Last time he was here, he was working for Mahoning County as a maintenance worker with the sanitary engineering department.

He’s retired now. He and his wife, Viola, just got back from a three-month trip traveling all over the East Coast.

On Wednesday, though, he came back to the fair with Viola. This time, it was a relaxing trip.

“When I was working here, I had to worry if the power was going to go out or a pump would fail,” he said. “You had to replace it right away.”

Only once did he have to replace a pump. The department had everything ready to go in a van in case something went wrong, but you’d rather it not go wrong.

He wasn’t thinking about any of that, though, as they sat on a bench in the shade near the dairy barns.

They’d visited old coworkers at the county government building and bought some hats. There’s a nice selection of hat vendors at the fair, Saulsberry said.

• • •

The cider stand in the corner of the fruits, grains and hay building is a popular stop for fairgoers. A steady stream of customers stop to get a cup of apple or cherry cider throughout the day.

Ed Tesner has run the stand for 56 years now. He said he mostly comes out now to see his friends.

Two of his nephews helped him run the booth Wednesday afternoon. It’s a family affair at the cider booth.

Tesner opened a farm market in Austintown in 1953, right after he graduated high school. Before that he was a huckster, someone who drove around neighborhoods selling produce from a truck, he said.

“I borrowed $50 from my father and bought $50 worth of bananas,” he said.

Before that he had a paper route, where he got to know a lot of people. Those same people would later become customers on his produce route.

He ran the market for about 20 years before getting out of the business. He kept plenty busy though, running a driving school and being a flight instructor at Salem Airport, among other things.

Tesner makes the cherry cider himself. The recipe is a secret, and he only sells it at the fair.

“People buy several gallons and freeze it. Then they serve it at Christmas,” he said.

(Reporter Rachel Wagoner can be contacted at 800-837-3419 or rachel@farmanddairy.com.)

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Rachel is a reporter with Farm and Dairy and a graduate of Clarion University of Pennsylvania. She married a fourth-generation beef and sheep farmer and settled down in her hometown in Beaver County. Before coming to Farm and Dairy, she worked at several daily and weekly newspapers throughout Western Pennsylvania covering everything from education and community news to police and courts.

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