AKRON – Like many others, Summit County 4-H members are asking, “What’s going to happen to the Summit County Fair?” Will there be a fair July 23-28, 2002?
“I am 14 years old and have been in 4-H for seven years,” writes Emily Turner. “This is very important to me that I will not be able to be involved in 4-H anymore.
“The fair is not only a place to go play games and ride rides and hang out with our friends, it’s also a great way for families to come together and spend quality time with each other.”
“I am 11 years old and I grew up at the fairgrounds,” writes Stephen Zuravel. “I have learned about a lot of animals. I think it’s important to be able to show animals so other other kids can see and understand the animals.”
No one knows for sure if there will be a Summit County Fair if the Summit County Agricultural Society is evicted from the fairgrounds. There are only opinions and speculation.
* “This is virgin territory we are crossing,” said Jeff Kalbus, internal auditor with the Ohio Department of Agriculture who has been the main liaison for the department with the county fairs.
The department has no responsibility to the fairs other than to certify that they are in compliance with Section 1711 of the Ohio Revised Code and are therefore eligible to receive county funds.
“I doubt if they can hold it,” he said. “At least it won’t be the Summit County Fair.”
* Don Klingler, executive secretary of the Ohio Fair Managers Association, said the arrangements each agricultural society has with the county varies, but state law is very clear: It is the agricultural society and its board, usually called the fair board, that is authorized to organize the fair.
The law allows the fair board to operate and maintain the grounds and to organize the fair, he said.
“It is autonomous. It makes its own rules for the fair and is allowed to operate as long as it meets certain guidelines.”
The society has to be organized, recognized by the state, and certified by the department of agriculture for there to be an official county fair.
“The county could hold a fair,” Klingler said. “But they couldn’t call it the county fair. It would be an event or a festival.”
* Charles Call, former member of the Summit County fair board and “very interested observer,” said if the action the county is threatening proceeds, “I think the fair will die.”
The agricultural society doesn’t have the financial resources to fight this legally and also put on a fair. He doesn’t foresee that anyone else would be interested enough to do it.
* James McCarthy, Summit County executive, said if the ag society had negotiated a transfer of the property, there might have been the opportunity to lease the fairgrounds from the county for two weeks out of the year to put on a fair. But he said the matter is now probably beyond negotiation.
“There are too many lawyers involved,” he said.
“We might think about creating our own fair board, but that is an option to be considered after the fact.”
* Elizabeth Hale, secretary-treasurer for the agricultural society and manager of the fairgrounds, predicts that if the society is evicted, there will be no fair.
“I am really worried about 4-H in the county,” she said. “If the kids don’t have a fair to compete in, I’m not sure they will continue to participate.
“If we don’t have control of the grounds, I don’t see how we could come in and get ready for the fair. It would be impossible.”